A birthday celebration on a swanky rooftop bar in Manhattan’s Flatiron district turned deadly Friday morning after an argument erupted over a butt groping incident – and ended with one club-goer fatally shooting a 19-year-old woman and wounding her 21-year-old boyfriend, DailyMail.com has learned.
The boyfriend, Andres Arias, told DailyMail.com exclusively that his girlfriend Erica Lopez may have saved his life by shoving him out of the way when the gunman opened fire.
‘Erica pushed me out of the way, and one bullet went through her chest and grazed me through the left side of my ribs,’ he said.
‘I saw my girlfriend Erica falling to the ground, and I dove to grab her so she didn’t hit her head,’ he explained.
‘I turned her over, and she was bleeding through her left chest.’
Andres Arias, 21, and Erica Lopez, 19, are pictured at 230 Fifth Rooftop hours before she was killed in a fatal double shooting on leaving the club Friday morning. The couple had been celebrating Arias’s cousin’s boyfriend’s birthday at the swanky rooftop bar in Manhattan’s Flatiron district before the night turned deadly
Certified in CPR, Arias said he performed chest compressions to try and keep her alive before he then blacked out.
‘Once I came back to my senses, I saw EMTs putting Erica onto a stretcher and other EMTs putting me onto another stretcher,’ he said.
The couple were taken by ambulance to Bellevue Hospital and placed in the same room, separated by a curtain, where Lopez died a short time later.
The night started out as a celebration at 230 Fifth Rooftop, located near Madison Square Park at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 27th Street.
Arias, a student at Southern Connecticut State University, and Lopez, a hostess in a restaurant in a Norwalk mall, had taken a train into the city from their hometown in Norwalk, Connecticut Thursday afternoon.
In the city, they met up with about 10 people, including Arias’ cousin and the cousin’s boyfriend who was turning 27 years old.
NYPD cops investigate the scene of the shooting that left Lopez dead and Arias wounded in Manhattan in the early hours of Friday morning
Arias spoke to DailyMail.com exclusively Friday and said the couple had been celebrating his cousin’s boyfriend’s birthday in Manhattan’s Flatiron district
At the bar, they struck up conversations with another group of about six young men and women.
‘They were complete strangers but we were all having conversations,’ Arias recalled.
‘We were all buying each other drinks and food. We were getting to know each other. It was a really good time.’
Then a woman in the other group grabbed Erica’s butt and also groped another one of their female friends, Arias said.
‘That girl in the other group started the whole incident,’ he said.
‘She was drunk. My girlfriend told me she was touching their butts, without their consent.’
Arias confronted the other group and an argument broke out.
Arias told DailyMail.com Lopez (pictured) may have saved his life when she ‘pushed me out of the way and one bullet went through her chest’
Arias, Lopez and their friends left the bar. He said they were talking about the argument as they walked down the street.
Then they realized they’d been followed by the others, who drove up to them in their vehicles. It was about 12:30 a.m. Friday at the time.
‘That’s when we see one guy get out of his car and he’s confronting us and saying, “do we have a problem here? I hear you guys are talking smack about us,”‘ Arias recalled.
‘We told them, “there’s no problem here, we just want to tell you tell your girl to keep her hands to herself because she was getting all touchy touchy with me and my boy’s girlfriends.”‘
At that point, the man from the car was joined by his girlfriend, who stepped out of his vehicle and shouted, ‘I could do whatever I want,’ Arias said.
The man ordered the woman to get back into the car, he said.
Arias said another vehicle then pulled up driven by a black man who was about 6 feet tall, had dreadlocks and was wearing a black shirt and black jeans.
The driver of the second vehicle, a gray sedan, then exited the car with a gun and fired a shot into the air, Arias said.
“Do we have a problem?” Arias said the shooter then shouted.
‘Me and my boy said, “No, we don’t have a problem because you just brought a gun to a situation that’s already being handled,”‘ Arias recalled saying.
That’s when the gunman fired twice more, in their direction.
Officers at the scene early Friday morning. An argument erupted over a butt groping incident, Arias told DailyMail.com
Arias said an argument broke out when a girl in another group began grabbing some of the women’s butts. He said he, Lopez and their group then left, but were confronted by some of the group in the street before another car pulled up and a man exited it with a gun and opened fire
Arias said one of the bullets penetrated Lopez’s chest and then grazed him, leaving a hole in the left side of his rib cage.
It was later that morning, as Arias was recovering and sedated, that staff told him his girlfriend had died.
‘I told the nurses to leave the room, then I started screaming and crying,’ Arias recalled.
‘This is the second person that’s died in my hands. My grandpa died in my arms two years ago from a heart attack.’
Arias was released from the hospital a few hours later and recovering at home Friday evening.
One of Lopez’s best friends, 19-year-old Alma Johana Corona, told DailyMail.com back in Norwalk Friday night that she was struggling not to cry as she tried to console her friend’s parents and younger brother.
‘I have cried so much I don’t have any more tears,’ Corona told DailyMail.com.
‘She’s my best friend. We’ve known each other since pre-school.’
She added: ‘She had so many friends. She was nice to everyone. She had a beautiful personality, energy. I just can’t believe this was meant for her.
‘She doesn’t have any enemies. I just don’t understand why anyone would do this to her.’
Police were called to the scene of the fatal, double-shooting in the Flatiron District at around 12:30a.m. Friday morning.
As of Friday evening, no arrests had been made and the gunman has not been located.
Police are continuing their investigation.