Tag Archive | "Crime"

Bronx college student found shot in the head

Bedford Park residents on "pins and needles" after the killing of 25-year-old Kennedy Brown.

A 25-year-old college student and father of twins was fatally shot early Saturday morning in the Bedford Park area of the Bronx.

Police said Bronx resident Kennedy Brown was found with a gunshot wound to the head in front of an apartment building on Decatur Avenue off of 197th Street just before 2 a.m. Brown was taken to Saint Barnabas Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Detectives on the scene of the shooting said that no arrests have been made, and that the investigation is ongoing.

Shocked friends and family said they could find no explanation for Brown’s shooting. Neighborhood residents said Brown was at at a party Friday night that got “out of control.”

Several mourners gathered Saturday around a makeshift memorial a few feet from where Brown was killed said he was studying liberal arts at the College of New Rochelle in the northeast Bronx, and was a father to twins, a boy and a girl.

One woman, who described herself as a close friend, said Brown was a book-smart jokester that was loved by everyone in the neighborhood.

“He was a good boy,” said Justine Valazquez, 25, who grew up with Brown in Bedford Park. “He was funny, he was always making people laugh.”

Many on the street looked visibly shaken. One young man broke down crying in front of the memorial of lit candles, beer bottles, and written messages to Brown.  Most refused to speak about the circumstances around Brown’s killing, saying that everyone in the neighborhood was on “pins and needles.”

Two miles away on 176th Street, several family members and friends grieved inside Brown’s second-floor apartment, where he lived with his mother.

Brown’s mother declined to speak about her son, saying only, “my son is dead.” Other family members called the killing “senseless,” and asked to be left alone.

 

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Police search for Bronx ‘Subway Slasher,’ NBC New York

Police have released identification details of a woman accused of slashing two other 4-train passengers, both young women, in the face two separate times, reports NBC New York. There doesn’t appear to be a motive to the crimes, which is worrying other young women riding the train, they report.

Both times, the alleged slasher was last ween wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, a thick green bracelet and translucent plastic gloves, police said.

The first incident happened on Sept. 6 on the uptown 4 train near East 170th Street, according to police. The next was six days later on the downtown 4 train near Mount Eden Avenue.

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Rezoning confusion for Norwood’s business owners

A view of Webster Avenue in Norwood. Photo: Elisabeth Anderson

A view of Webster Avenue in Norwood. Photo: Elisabeth Anderson

Many business owners in the Norwood section of Webster Avenue were caught unaware last week when the city began its formal approval process for a rezoning plan to revitalize the commercial stretch.

“What rezoning?” asked Maurice Sarkissian, 40, whose Sarkissian Food Service Equipment & Supplies, a restaurant supply business, has been in his family – and on Webster Avenue – for 50 years.

If the plan is approved, Sarkissian and his business colleagues along the corridor may soon find out that it involves less commercial use on Webster Avenue from East Gun Hill Road to the north to East Fordham Road to the south.  The cutbacks would make way for the development of nearly 740 units of affordable housing and 100,000 square feet of retail space.  The goal is to make Webster Avenue a safe, lively and walkable corridor.

The Department of City Planning certified the plan last week, offering it for public review for up to 60 days.  From there, the plan faces several more levels of approval before making it to city council for a final vote.  Community Board 7 District Manager Fernando Tirado, 40, estimated that the vote could happen by March, and that construction could begin as early as the spring.

Sarkissian believes Webster Avenue’s wide boulevard will never be safe for children.  He believes that crime is not caused by businesses, but by poor policing.  The 52nd Precinct reported a five percent increase in crime complaints from early September to early October as compared to the same period last year. Sarkissian blames businesses that are open until 2 or 3 a.m. “They need to cut out all the hangouts,” he said.

Sarkissian defended most of the businesses in the area.  “We keep the neighborhood nice, clean,” he said, adding that businesses like his were vital to the local Norwood economy because they bring customers into the big retail hubs along 204th Street and Gun Hill Road. “To make a neighborhood, you can’t chase good people out,” Sarkissian said.

But Tirado said that the area has to look ahead. “We want some smarter development,” he said.  According to a city planning spokesperson, existing businesses would be grandfathered into the new zoning plan.  They can remain and invest in their properties, and potentially benefit from an expanded customer base and revived corridor.

A number of business owners, like Sarkissian, still felt their futures were in jeopardy, unsure if the changing dynamic of the neighborhood would create public pressure for commercial businesses to leave.

“That’s not too good cause we don’t know where we’re going to go,” said John Joe Bennett, 51, of the plan.  Bennett, a 51-year-old Jamaican immigrant with a wife and eight children to support, owns John Joe Auto.   His shop has been on Webster Avenue since 1992, and he said he felt secure only until his current lease ends, in December 2012.  “My customers are mostly local,” Bennett said.  “If we move, will they follow?”

One customer at an unmarked auto repair shop a few storefronts north of John Joe Auto thought the move was a good one.  Miguel Alcantara, 45, who drives a taxi for New College Car Service, praised the plan, saying “It needs to be safer here.” He said in the future he wouldn’t mind driving to a repair shop further away.

Public pressure could be a factor for Bennett, as his business does not fall within the confines of a three-block sliver of Webster Avenue north of 205th Street that will remain zoned for exclusively auto-industry businesses.

Neither does Edmund Tierney’s business.  Tierney, 50, owns Tierney’s Auto Repair in the same building as Bennett’s.   “if it brings more people to the area, it has to be good,” said Tierney, who lives in Yonkers with his wife and three children.

Residents tend to share Tierney’s optimism.  “It’s not safe at night,” said Floyd Middleton, 44, who lives around the corner from Webster Avenue on 204th Street with his wife and two children.  “There’s a lot of gang-related violence at night.”  He believes the uptick in crime is related to fewer jobs; he has been looking for work himself for nearly a year.  Middleton thinks that bringing more retail positions to the area will help.

“If we develop, it’ll be a good thing,” he said.  He hoped to see large chain stores and a supermarket on Webster Avenue, so his family would not have to trek to Fordham Road or 125th Street in Manhattan for clothes and groceries.

But Chris McDonald, a 43-year-old Jamaican immigrant who is an apprentice auto mechanic at John Joe Auto, scratched his head over that notion.  Norwood is already awash in retail, he noted.  Not to mention his prospects for future work.  “I’ve just started,” McDonald said.  “I’d like to stay a while.”

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Bronx Men Arrested With 1,925 Cartons of Untaxed Cigarettes

Today, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance announced the arrest of four men who were accused of possessing 1,925 cartons of untaxed cigarettes and more than 36,800 counterfeit tax stamps. Counterfeit tax stamps are used to disguise untaxed cigarettes, which can then be sold for full price in stores at a higher profit margin.

The cigarettes and tax stamps were found by Tax Department investigators during searches of an apartment, two vehicles and a rented garage. Three of the men who were arrested; Khader Awawdeh, Hakim Al-Saydi, and Dhafer Ghaleb, were charged with first degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, attempt to evade tax, possession of counterfeit stamps and unlawful possession of untaxed cigarettes. The fourth man, Fahmi Hassan, was charged with first degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. Awawdeh, Al-Saydi, Hassan, and Ghaleb are next due to appear in court on June 17.

Brad Maione, a spokesman for the Department of Taxation and Finance, said, “The presumption was that they would probably attempt to sell them at some point, but we were able to interdict them and prevent that sale.” Maione said the men “likely” got the cigarettes from an Indian reservation upstate or on Long Island. Maione said reservations are “a significant source of untaxed cigarettes.”

Maione wouldn’t disclose how the stash of illegal smokes was discovered, but he did say that Tax Department agents do “regular surveillance around the Indian reservations in Long Island and upstate New York” to identify individuals who are “buying hundreds of cartons.”

No one picked up the phone at the addresses of Awadeh, Al-Saydi and Hassan. Ghaleb’s home address is a store called Grocery Westchester, at 1781 Westchester Ave. in the Bronx. A man who answered the phone at Grocery Westchester hung up when asked about the arrests.

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Weeks before graduation, students lose a classmate

Additional reporting by Sam Fellman

Just 19 days away from graduation, the senior class at the St. Raymond High School for Boys in the Castle Hill section of The Bronx was mourning on Monday the loss of classmate Jonathan Torres, 18, who was fatally shot on Friday shortly before 6 p.m.

Students are dismissed from St. Raymond School for Boys in Castle Hill (Photo by: Sonia Dasgupta/The Bronx Ink)

Students are dismissed from St. Raymond School for Boys in Castle Hill (Photo by: Sonia Dasgupta/The Bronx Ink)

Torres, of Highbridge, was with a 20-year-old companion when they were gunned down in front of 3451 Delavall Ave., near Hollers Avenue, in Edenwald. The second victim is listed as being in critical but stable condition at Jacobi Hospital.

Students learned of the shooting quickly and many received word in the early morning hours of Saturday.
Fran Davies, a spokeswoman with the superintendent of school for the Archdiocese of New York, which oversees the school, said the school provided students with grief counselors Monday.

“Our thoughts are with the family and his friends,” Davies said. Although some students gathered over the weekend at the school, on Monday morning the school held a prayer service in honor of Torres.

Senior Jonathan Brown said students were in shock over the shooting. “It’s very hurtful,” Brown said, “and there are no words to express how you feel when you lose a classmate.”

Brown said he and others wrote prayers and thoughts in a book to be presented to Torres’ mother.

“He was a funny kid that could always make you laugh,” Brown added. “He had progressed over the years and showed a lot of dedication.”

Christian Jorge, another one of Torres’ classmates, said the whole situation was upsetting. “It’s going to be a hard last month,” Jorge said. “I knew him for the last four years.”

Jorge described Torres as a bit of a class clown but someone many turned to for encouragement. Torres didn’t play sports, but he was still involved at the school.

“Although we all have our faults, he wasn’t a troublemaker,” Jorge said when asked about the circumstances surrounding the shooting. “I think he was just there at the wrong time.”

The cause of the shooting was unknown on Monday. A police officer, who declined to give a name citing the ongoing investigation, said the two victims were in Edenwald to pick up a motorcycle for an auto shop. They were shot in front of a marble and granite business. A police spokesperson said no arrests have been made and declined to comment further on the investigation.

Officials who work at Torres’ school declined to comment and his family could not be reached.

Students said the school will allow seniors to attend the funeral at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Melrose on Thursday. The Mass will begin at 8:30 am.

“This wasn’t the way we wanted to end our year,” Jorge said. “This morning they read an excerpt from a letter he wrote in which he talks about going to college and starting a family.”

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Major Heroin Bust in Bronx Called a Sign of a Growing Problem

Authorities displayed heroin they said was seized during a raid on an apartment in the Bronx. Photo: Courtesy of NYPD

Authorities displayed heroin they said was seized during a raid on an apartment in the Bronx. Photo: Courtesy of NYPD

On Thursday, four men were arrested and approximately $1 million worth of heroin was seized after an investigation by the New York Police Department’s Bronx Narcotics Major Case Squad and the Special Narcotics Prosecutor’s Office culminated with a raid on an apartment in Parkchester. People with knowledge of the case said the bust was indicative of an increasing number of wholesale heroin operations in the Bronx.

Authorities said Apartment 1L in the building at 2112 Starling Ave. was used as a heroin mill, where the drug was packaged and processed before being distributed to a variety of dealers. Heroin packaged at the apartment was placed in glassine envelopes, which according to a press release issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration, were stamped with the brand names “Almighty,” “Heat Wave,” “Maserati” and “Body Bag.”

The exterior of 2112 Starling Avenue, where police said they seized approximately $1 million worth of heroin. Photo: Courtesy of NYPD

The exterior of 2112 Starling Avenue, where police said they seized approximately $1 million worth of heroin. Photo: Courtesy of NYPD

Arrested in conjunction with the raid were four men, including 28-year-old Luis Lara, who was described by the DEA as, “a manager of the drug trafficking organization.” Lara was observed, according to the press release, “traveling to both JFK Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport on Sunday and then returning to The Bronx.” Law enforcement officials also said they arrested 28-year-old Jose Polo, who was stopped leaving the apartment with a backpack containing 3,000 glassines of heroin, and two other men who worked at the Parkchester mill. In total, the DEA said the search of the apartment uncovered seven kilos of heroin prepackaged in 50,000 envelopes along with “cardboard boxes of empty glassines, scales and coffee grinders used for cutting the heroin” and “other paraphernalia.”

A source with knowledge of this investigation described heroin mills as a growing problem in the Bronx. Officials said this was a large drug operation, but that there have been at least four major raids on heroin mills in the Bronx since last July, including seizures more than twice the size of this latest bust. New York City special narcotics prosecutor Bridget G. Brennan released a statement  that said the bust was “one of many significant heroin seizures in the city over the past nine months.” Brennan’s statement cited  a case last July when police officers found a quarter of a million envelopes of the drug, five times as many as were seized in Thursday’s raid.


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Progress in DNA Testing Leads to Indictment in 30-Year-Old Murder

After almost 30 years, the skin cells found under Tolila Brown’s fingernails finally led the police to the man they think killed her. On Nov. 2, 1981, Brown, who was then 36 years old, was found dead in a shack on an abandoned lot along Minford Place in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. She was found with a scarf around her neck, which was used to strangle her. The scarf had been tightened with a chisel.

Fight Of His Life

Close to 95 % of cases supported by DNA evidence end in a guilty verdict, experts say. (AP)

A yearlong investigation failed to unearth any leads on the case, and it was abandoned. Nearly three decades later, however, samples of skin cells found under the victim’s fingernails were subjected to DNA testing, and a suspect was identified: 56-year old Jesus Aguilera. On Wednesday, the Bronx State Supreme Court unsealed an indictment against him with a single count for murder in the second degree.

Police Sgt. Carlos Nieves of the New York Police Department told the Bronx Ink that Aguilera is already serving two sentences of 20 years to life for the murders of Guillermo Graniella, 30, and Josephina Cepada, 24, committed in August and September 1981, respectively. Graniella’s murder took place on Park Avenue in the Bronx, Cepada’s on State Street in Manhattan. “Similar to Moore,” Nieves noted, “both Graniella and Cepada died from strangulation.”

The new technology provides the strongest evidence in many prosecutions, experts say.

“For juries, it is definitely the most important piece of the puzzle; DNA is considered the gold standard of evidence,” said Lawrence Kobilinsky, a professor of forensic sciences and chairman of the Department of Sciences at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Kobilinsky added that close to 95 percent of the cases that involve DNA evidence end with a guilty verdict.

DNA testing was first used in criminal cases in the 1990s, and “it was a revolution for investigations because it is much more stable than proteins or carbohydrates; those degraded very fast,” Kobilinsky went on. Since then, “progress in testing technologies, in computer technologies and the expansion of the DNA database have made it extremely reliable and sensitive.” Kobilinsky, who is also the co-author of the book “DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications,” explained that “until four or five years ago, skin cells could only be analyzed if at least 15 cells were collected. But now, a new technique called ‘low copy number’ allows analysts to get information from smaller samples.”

Located in the nucleus of the cell, DNA can be found in samples from blood, semen, bones, saliva, hair, nails and skin cells. As of January of this year, the National DNA Index (NDIS) contains more than 8 million profiles, from convicted offenders to unidentified human remains. The U.S. Department of Justice says that since the NDIS was created in 1989, it “added value to the investigative process” in 103,400 cases. In the state of New York, the 330,390 profiles have helped solve 9,164 investigations.

Still, although accuracy and sensitivity has improved in the past decade, DNA testing is not automatically used in criminal cases. The decision is made on a case-by-case basis by the presiding prosecutor or detective. “New York City has a team of over 180 analysts working on DNA samples from sexual abuse and homicide cases,” Kobilinsky said. “Most jurisdictions don’t have this kind of human resources but still, it isn’t enough to have every criminal investigation include a DNA test.”

Kobilinsky estimates that for a simple case, the cost of analyzing a DNA sample is under $400. “In private laboratories, the cost can be higher, but in publicly funded forensic crime labs, it remains rather cheap,” he said. Cheap in money, maybe, but not in time: According to a survey issued in 2005 by the National Bureau of Justice Statistics, DNA analyses are “10 times more time consuming and complex than other forensic services.”

There are more reasons why DNA should not be looked at as a definitive end to crime investigations, experts said.

“DNA evidence is like any other evidence,” said David H. Kaye, a law professor at Penn State. “Once you’ve collected it and matched it with a person, it doesn’t answer every question. You have to find out how and when those DNA samples got there. DNA associates a person with an event, but the explanation for that association could prove him/her innocent.”

Jesus Aguilera pleaded not guilty in this third prosecution, even though he confessed to his two prior convictions, according to Rachel Singer, director of DNA prosecution and the assistant district attorney in Aguilera’s trial.

For this new homicide charge, Aguilera faces up to 25 years behind the bars.

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A crying woman, shots and an officer down

By Alec Johnson

Early Monday afternoon Yesenia Rodriguez ran down the stairs from the second floor in the Morrisania Air Rights apartment complex at 3073 Park Ave. in the South Bronx.  She was crying. The man upstairs, she said in Spanish, had thrown her to the ground and threatened to kill her.

PO Robert Salerno

Police Officer Robert Salerno (NYPD)

She found neighbor, Jimmy Molina, 54, reading a newspaper in the lobby. She told him that Santiago Urena, the son of an elderly woman she cared for, was making repeated sexual advances towards her and she was fed up. When she threatened to call the police he pulled out a gun and yelled, “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to kill you.”

She and Molina called 911 and as they waited she told him the story.  A few minutes later, about 12:30 p.m. four police officers from the 44th precinct entered the lobby.

“They asked where the guy with the gun was,” Molina said. He interpreted for the officers as Rodriguez told them Urena was on the second floor. Urena’s brother, Demetrio, 69, led them upstairs. Two cops, Molina said, ran up the stairs to apartment 2G and the other two took the elevator.

Less than a minute later Molina heard gunshots. Santiago Urena, 57, opened fire as officers approached a bedroom, police later said. Three .38 caliber bullets fired by Urena struck Police Officer Robert Salerno, 25. Two entered his unprotected lower abdomen and a third lodged in the bulletproof vest that covered his chest. Salerno returned fire, emptying his 16 round magazine. The three other officers shot a total of five times.

Molina was outside the building when about, he said, “two minutes later four cops brought him out carrying him.” Two held his legs and two held his hands — “running to the ambulance.”

Gun Recovered

This .38 caliber revolver was recovered by police from the crime scene. (NYPD)

Salerno, the first police officer shot in the line of duty this year, was taken to Lincoln Hospital where surgeons removed the bullets. Urena was not so lucky. Police who returned to the apartment after taking Salerno to the ambulance found Urena dead of what appeared to be a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. On Tuesday the medical examiner determined that police rounds killed Urena.

Urena’s 91-year-old mother was in another room of the apartment during the shooting and was later carried out of the building.

Police cordoned off the block and neighbors milled around the street in the afternoon rain. They were shocked by the shootout. Nelson Figuerola who lives on the 20th floor of the 23-floor building pointed across 158th street and said he would have expected gunplay over there, but not in his building.

“That building they call Vietnam,” he said. “This one is a lot better.”

Figuerola has lived in 2073 Park Ave. since 1982 and remembered Urena as a quiet man that used to work at the airport. “He cleaned airplanes,” he said. “Nobody expected this.”

Marie Garcia, 23, lives on the 16th floor and was awakened by sirens as dozens of police swarmed the area minutes after the shooting. She looked out her window and saw them running into the building. “They looked like sardines,” she said. “They were all trying to fit in the front door at once.”

The crowd of more than 100 that formed shortly after the shooting dispersed as heavier rain fell in the late afternoon. A handful returned after dark to watch the medical examiners wheel Urena’s body out on a stretcher.

A resident of 3073 Park Ave. in the Bronx reacts to questions by the media, Monday, after a police officer was shot in her building.

A resident of 3073 Park Ave. in the Bronx reacts to questions by the media, Monday, after a police officer was shot in her building. (Alec Johnson/The Bronx Ink)

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