New York Daily News

Shooting vic was eyed in rapper slay

- A devastated Athanasia Zapantis, 52, stands next to the alleyway entrance to her home on 150th St. in Whitestone, Queens, where her bipolar son George (inset) was tasered in confrontat­ion (right) with police. BY THOMAS TRACY

An inconsolab­le Queens mom, standing only a few feet from the spot where her tasered son was fatally injured during an NYPD arrest, struggled through tears to imagine life without him.

“I’m crying because I was not here for my son in his last moments, and he died in such a horrible way,” the weeping Athanasia Zapantis told the Daily News on Tuesday. “He was my left hand, my son. He was everything. … He died for no reason.”

The bipolar George Zapantis, 29, suffered a fatal heart attack after he was tasered twice by arresting officers who found him in the basement dressed as a gladiator, wearing a helmet and wielding a samurai sword after a neighbor called the cops on Sunday night, police and neighbors said.

Cops arrived at George Zapantis’ home on 150th St. near 20th Road in Whitestone just before 9:30 p.m. after the neighbor reported Zapantis was armed with a gun, authoritie­s said. But officers arrived to find Zapantis in the basement with just the sword.

When he refused repeated orders to drop the weapon and instead came at officers, Zapantis was zapped inside the house, police said. A video shot by a neighbor showed he was tasered again while scuffling with four cops outside the residence. It’s not clear what effect the Taser had on him, but police took him into custody.

At one point during the struggle, Zapantis retreated into the home, and the officers grabbed a plexiglass shield from their patrol car, cops said.

Zapantis suffered an apparent cardiac arrest in an ambulance, and died at New YorkPresby­terian Hospital Queens, cops said.

The scene was captured on several officers’ body cams, officials said.

Upstairs neighbors Ricky Noble, 42, and his 16-year-old daughter, Shakira, described Zapantis as a churchgoin­g man who took care of a 33-year-old sister with Down syndrome.

The two witnesses said Zapantis was threatenin­g no one with the sword when the neighbor called police on him, with things escalating quickly once cops arrived. The video indicates the suspect was unarmed when finally arrested.

“There were moments where George did say that he couldn’t breath to [police], when they were pulling on his shirt,” said Shakira. “And the officers said ‘Don’t play that card, no one’s choking you.’ ”

Athanasia Zapantis said the family was waiting for the results of an independen­t autopsy on her son’s cause of death, and expressed her frustratio­n that police didn’t call in a social worker to defuse the situation.

“If my son was wrong ….,” she said. “I don’t think he was wrong at all. He had so good a heart. He was kind to everybody.”

The video showed cops tasering Zapantis as they struggled with him outside the door to his apartment, with one officer shouting, “Get down! You’re going to get tasered again if you don’t get down!”

A second cop is heard saying, “Hit him again!” before

Zapantis was more.

“I told the officers he’s got mental health [issues], he takes medicine,” recalled Ricky Noble. “I was yelling at the officers that he was [mentally ill], and they were still tasing him. Just handcuff him and walk him out.”

The NYPD’s Force Investigat­ion Division has launched a probe. A police source said based on a preliminar­y investigat­ion, the use of force appears to be within department guidelines.

Ricky Nobel laid the blame for the lethal confrontat­ion on the neighbor who called in the man-with-a-gun report when Zapantis was only outside tasered once with his sword. The Nobles remembered Zapantis as a good neighbor who often brought them Greek food, kept an eye on his older sister and caused no trouble.

“My wife loved it,” said Ricky Noble about Zapantis’ meal deliveries. “He’s good. He’s a good human being. He was a good person.”

Athanasia Zapantis, whose husband died when George was just age 4, plans to move out of the neighborho­od. The memories are just too painful for her to stay.

“He was supposed to go to work tomorrow,” said the heartbroke­n mom. “I have to call them and tell them, you know, he’s not going back.”

A man fatally shot at a Brooklyn streetcorn­er last week was wanted for questionin­g in the slaying of an up-and-coming rapper killed a month earlier, the Daily News has learned.

Hassan Brown, 27, was considered a person of interest in the killing of Kennedy Joseph Noel, known by his rap name KJ Balla, who was gunned down May 22.

Brown died the same way Noel did: during a drive-by shooting in East New York, cops said. The two killings were 28 days and five blocks apart, police said.

According to officials, Brown was sitting in a car with a 17-year-old friend when a gunman opened fire from a passing vehicle on Stanley Ave. near Van Siclen Ave. about 4:15 p.m. on Friday.

Both Brown and the teen piled out of the car, witnesses told police. Brown — shot in the chest, face and leg — stumbled to a nearby deli to plead for help. His teen friend lay down on the street with a gunshot wound to his leg.

Medics rushed both victims to Brookdale University Hospital, where Brown died. The teen was treated and released.

In the 9:45 p.m. bloodshed May 22, Noel (photo) was hit in the chest by a gunman who squeezed off five shots from a passing car on Bradford St. in East New York, cops said. A 26-year-old man with the rapper was shot in the back, stomach and arm, but managed to get himself to Brookdale, where he was treated and released, cops said.

Detectives believed Brown was either involved in Noel’s murder or knew the parties involved, sources with knowledge of the case said — and was wanted for questionin­g before he was killed.

No arrests have been made in either case.

KJ Balla was a co-founder of his label, Nothing Records, and his rap songs were streamed on Spotify more than 80,000 times, according to reports.

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