BROOKLYN - The man accused of fatally shooting a 16-year-old girl in her East Flatbush apartment was arraigned Friday on charges of second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.

Taariq Stephens, 24, turned himself in at the 67th Precinct Thursday night and declined to comment as he was escorted out Friday morning.

According to investigators, Stephens had been texting with 16-year-old Shemel Mercurius prior to the shooting on the sixth-floor of an apartment building on Brooklyn Avenue around 6 p.m. Tuesday.

After turning himself in, Stephens pleaded not guilty to the two charges he is facing.
Police say Mercurius was baby-sitting her 3-year-old cousin when Stephens broke into the apartment and fatally shot her in the chest.

Stephens could be seen on surveillance video standing outside the apartment door holding a gun just moments before Mercurius was shot and killed. Officials say she told police who shot her before she lost consciousness. She was taken to Kings County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

Police initially said they were searching for her boyfriend, but now say that based on text messages, they do not believe the two were involved in a romantic relationship. However, they did say that the two knew each other.

"It was reported that it was a romantic relationship," says NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert Boyce. "She names him Taariq — she does not say it's her boyfriend."

Police say Stephens has six prior arrests and lives up the street from the crime scene on Brooklyn Avenue.

During arraignment in Downtown Brooklyn, the judge denied a motion for Stephens to be released on bail. His next court date is set for Wednesday.