As Zooty Bang, Zachary Taylor rapped about life on the streets. On Monday night, he became a victim of it.

Taylor, 19, of Mays Landing, was fatally shot in Atlantic City’s Westside just before 9:30 p.m., becoming the resort’s ninth homicide this year — the fifth to die by gun violence.

“We’re everywhere with Army guns,” Taylor raps in “Grinding Hard,” a song posted Thursday on YouTube that talks of drugs and “rockin’ the hood with a bag full of guns.”

Zooty Bang’s career seemed on the way. He tweeted last week: “Well everything went great with the labels … Roc nation interested in ya boy, I just need y’all support!!! Turn up!”

“I knew there was something special about him when we met,” said Aaron Washington Sr., who taught Taylor at PleasanTech Academy years ago and does record producing. “He could sing, dance, rap and had a personality that could charm anyone.”

But Washington, now a teacher at Pleasantville Middle School, concedes there were problems. Taylor wound up in trouble as a juvenile and was sentenced to the New Jersey Training School for Boys, where he graduated last June, its records show.

“Even when he found himself in trouble, he would reach out to me for counseling,” Washington said.

That happened in April, when Taylor was among eight men arrested as part of an Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office investigation that resulted in the seizure of five guns, including one semiautomatic.

Taylor was charged with theft, unlawful possession of a weapon, possession of a firearm while attempting to commit a controlled-dangerous-substance crime with intent to distribute, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and possession of cocaine. His $100,000 bail was posted April 24 — four days after his arrest, jail records show. The jail does not release who posts bail.

“Zooty was a one-of-a-kind person who could put a smile on anyone’s face,” Ashley Jordan wrote on Facebook. “It’s a shame that the world will never experience the talent that this young man had.”

Washington said he would join with a few local record producers to create a song with Taylor’s vocals to help support his family.

“It’s (a shame) they ain’t want to see you make it as bad as I did,” friend Kaiwan Lewis said of Taylor on Twitter. “But (I’m going to) make it for us.”

Taylor was the third Mays Landing man to be shot in the city within about 48 hours.

About 10 minutes after the shooting call about Taylor, a 17-year-old male walked into AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center, City Campus, with a gunshot wound to the shoulder, Sgt. Monica McMenamin said. He told police the shooting was on the 400 block of Robinson Avenue. His name was not released because of his age. That shooting is being investigated.

Joshua Cross, 24, also of Mays Landing, remains in critical condition after he arrived at the city’s hospital about 9:30 p.m. Saturday with a gunshot wound to the chest. He was shot on the 1600 block of Adriatic Avenue, near Stanley Holmes Village, and driven to the emergency room by two men at the scene. Five shell casings were recovered at the crime scene.

There was no indication whether any of the shootings were related.

“It is very sad to see how the streets have a way of sucking young people away from their potential,” Washington said. “I see it every day as a teacher and community activist.”

Washington said Taylor was the fifth youth he has mentored who was lost to the streets. Others have gone to jail.

“However, there are so many who have gone on to college and become productive citizens,” he said. “If I had just a little more time with him, I believe his network of supporters would have helped him switch his paradigm.”

Contact Lynda Cohen:

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