The family of an exotic dancer who was gunned down in Gramercy Park this week is in shock over the execution-style slaying — and just learning the truth of her troubled life since she fled to New York.
The masked gunman who blasted 25-year-old Imani Armstrong as she left her other job at an IHOP on Thursday morning needs to be arrested and prosecuted, grieving aunt Chanda Armstrong told The Post on Friday.
“To whoever did this, all I can say is God have mercy on your soul,” Chanda said in a phone interview from Virginia. “The thing is we are hurt but we do have to forgive. Hurt people hurt people so this person is hurt.
“The one that is gonna judge them is God and when God judges you, it’s the worse judgment,” she added. “God said vengeance is mine so I’ll leave it up to God.”
Armstrong had moved to the Big Apple from Virginia about three years ago to be with a woman who later became her wife, then kept communication with her disapproving family to a minimum, according to her aunt.
When her kin heard that Armstrong had been fatally shot by a masked gunman, they also learned she had been dancing and spent months in a shelter for domestic-abuse victims.
“She probably didn’t tell us because she knew we would have taken some type of action. We just found out,” Chanda, 50, said. “All this was going on and no one knew.”
Imani, who danced at an unspecified club using the name “Red,” had recently separated from her wife and had two children in foster care when she was fatally shot. The family was left questioning why she didn’t come back home for help.
“She knew she could always come back here. I don’t know if it was pride or wanting to do it on her own that stopped her,” Chanda said. “We don’t blame, we don’t judge, we don’t knock you. That’s not the type of family we are. You went out of state, it didn’t work, you come back home. We are going to help you. It’s sad she didn’t reach out.”
Chanda is the eldest of nine of Imani’s aunts and uncles and said she had custody of one of her niece’s children, 7-year-old Lilliana, for a short time. Imani’s heartbroken father and other family members are now trying to get Imani’s children out of foster care, she said.
“I pray that no one has told the children, especially ‘Lilly.’ I want the family to tell them first,” she said. “Lilly was really, really close to her. We’d know how to talk to her. She might need counseling. We’d be able to get her the help she needs to process it.”
Imani was born in Virginia and spent several years in Texas with her grandmother who raised her before she returned about eight years ago, Chanda said. It was there she had Lilliana, who was named after the grandmother. Imani also had a second child, a boy while in Virginia. A third child was put up for adoption, the aunt said.
But around 2018, Imani started a relationship with her future wife and within months had followed her to the Big Apple. The family knew her kids ended up in foster care, but didn’t know the couple had married — or that their relationship grew troubled.
She would call periodically, sometimes asking for money — but largely kept her family in the dark, her aunt said.
“She didn’t say what was going on in her life because the family disapproved of that girl so she kind of kept us out of her life at that point,” Chanda said. “We didn’t know she was dancing. We are kind of a religious family so we may not have approved of it but we would not have judged her for it.”
Armstrong had finished her overnight shift at IHOP at around 5 a.m. on Thursday and was on her way to the 14th Street subway when she was shot near Union Square, cops and sources said. Surveillance footage obtained by cops showed that the shooter was waiting for Armstrong across the street as she walked out of the restaurant, sources said.
The assailant is seen in the footage following Armstrong before running up behind her and firing a shot, according to the sources. The suspect, who is still at large, then ran northbound on Irving Place, the sources added.
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