New York City officials have vowed to take action after ghost guns and a 3D printer were found in an unlocked room at a licensed day care center just days after fentanyl was discovered at another site where a child fell ill and later died from apparent opioid exposure.
"We are clear that we must protect children in New York City," Mayor Eric Adams said at a news conference Wednesday as he vowed to "lead the entire country" in taking steps to ramp up safety at day care sites.
The proclamation came as the New York City Police Department announced the arrest of an 18-year-old found to have 3D-printed ghost guns at his mother's home in East Harlem, which they said was being operated as a licensed day care center.
Police said they found multiple ghost guns in an unlocked room at the residence, including two completed 3D-printed guns and an assault pistol that was in the final stages of assembly. A 3D printer and printing tools were also found.
Karon Coley was expected to be charged with illegal firearms possession, manufacturing of an assault weapon and reckless endangerment, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said at Wednesday's news conference.
"When made well, ghost guns and 3D printed firearms operate just like commercial firearms," said Rebecca Weiner, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism bureau. "In the hands of teenagers, they can inflict just as much violence," she said.
The discovery of the ghost guns was made as part of an investigation into the manufacture and sale of privately made firearms, or PMFs, in New York City, police said.
It came less than two weeks after fentanyl was found at a day care in the Bronx borough after 1-year-old Nicholas Dominici fell ill and died and three other children got sick from an apparent opioid exposure earlier this month.
In that case, investigators found fentanyl hidden under a trapdoor on the same floor where children had played, as well as in a closet on top of children's play mats at the “Divino Niño” day care center, according to police. Two kilo presses, typically used by drug dealers to package large quantities of drugs, were also found in the closet, authorities said.
Three people — Grei Mendez, 36, the owner of the day care center, Carlisto Acevedo Brito, 41, and Renny Antonio Parra Paredes, 38, have been charged in connection with the Bronx incident, with authorities saying they worked together to deal drugs.
Mendez's husband, who has yet to be identified, was later arrested in Mexico, three sources said. Mexican state police and agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Marshals Service apprehended him on a bus heading to Sinaloa, the sources said.
Speaking at Wednesday's news conference, Christina Chang, executive deputy commissioner and chief program officer with the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said family day care sites are subject to both announced and surprise inspections.
Chang said the last inspection at the East Harlem center was in February. Three violations were found related to documentation around feeding and sleeping schedules, as well as verification from doctors that children did not have any infectious diseases, but “corrective action” was undertaken to resolve those issues, she said.
Adams said officials would work to "continually modify the rules" to "stay ahead of bad people that are doing bad things in environments where our children are." He did not specify what modifications might be made.
Asked whether he had suggestions for what officials should be looking for when doing day care inspections, he said it was "challenging," but that inspectors were "not just walking through" during site visits. "They’re looking in closets, they’re looking in bathrooms," he said.
"And so, there is an extensive process already in place, but we are just dealing with a new enemy, and we have to stay ahead of those who are finding creative ways to create dangerous environments," Adams said.