A troubled exotic dancer who recently separated from her wife and lost her kids to foster care was gunned down execution style on a Gramercy Park sidewalk early Thursday, cops and witnesses said.
Imani Armstrong was headed home from a late shift at her other job at an IHOP at about 5 a.m. when a masked gunman snuck up and blasted her in the back of the head at East 14th Street and Irving Place.
“When I heard the shot, I was like, ‘Oh sh*t.’It was like one loud bang . . . I heard one shot and then silence,” said Maximillian Stebelsky, 18, a neuroscience major who lives in a nearby NYU dorm.
“I never predicted something like this to happen, especially across the street from where I live.”
The motive for the slaying remained unknown, but the shooting of was not random, cops said.
“The individual was targeted,” Chief of Department Kenneth Corey said Thursday. “We have a number of suspects that we’re looking at, but nothing we want to commit to right now. But I’m very comfortable saying it was not a random attack.”
The shooter and a woman, both dressed in black, were seen fleeing north, but the woman may have been a bystander running from the gunfire, sources said.
The tragedy comes after some hard luck for Armstrong, who had just been served divorce papers by her wife and moved out of the apartment they shared about a month ago.
Her kids have been in foster care on Staten Island and she was attending anger management classes in hopes of getting them back, coworkers told The Post. But prior to the murder she didn’t seem “like anything was on her mind,” one coworker said.
“She was happy. She was greeting the customers and all that stuff,” one IHOP coworker told The Post of Armstrong’s final minutes.
She had stayed beyond her regular shift because the restaurant was busy, and headed toward 14th Street to take the train as she normally did when she left for the day, the coworker said. Armstrong, who was originally from Texas, had been trying to better herself, the IHOP employee said.
“She was good. She worked well,” the coworker said. “She got along with everybody. She knew a lot of people around here.”
Armstrong, who danced under the name “Red,” was fighting to get her kids back and had recently been robbed by a friend at the club where she dances, her coworker claimed. She also had trouble at home.
Cops had been called to a Queens apartment in January 2021 where she and her partner got into an argument over their children and her partner choked her and shoved her to the ground, sources said.
Armstrong told her coworker the ex had reached out last week via text saying “I love you, I miss you,” the coworker said.
“I told her, ‘Don’t fall for it. Don’t reply,’” the coworker said. “I knew her kids were taken away from her because of that lady.
A 56-year-old man who gave his first name, Manny, said he was working at his nearby coffee cart when the shooting happened.
“I was here cooking when I heard a loud boom,” Manny said. “I said, ‘Oh s–t, what was that?’ I thought it was a car or truck [that] crashed. I ran outside and I saw the lady on the sidewalk.”
Before the shooting, “I didn’t hear any commotion, nothing,” he said.
When he saw the body, Manny thought, “Oh my God. I wondered if she had kids, what about her family,” he said.
There were other people around “who called 911” so he didn’t, he said.
“It’s a shame,” Manny said. “You have these people killing one another. They kill somebody and the system lets them back out. They are right back on the streets and they do the same s–t again. It’s crazy.”
“The president, the politicians, they are not doing anything about it. All they think about is getting voted back in,” he said. “You got some sick, screwed-up people out here.”
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