Posted on 21 April 2010.
This article is by Jennifer Brookland and Ryan Tracy.
Ashley Cardero, second from left, and Angelica Nitura, second from right, stood with friends by a memorial on Cromwell Ave., not far from where 17 year-old Juandy Paredes was stabbed to death Friday night. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)
Juandy Paredes’s crew hangs out at 1164 Cromwell Avenue at night, or at the nearby park just north of Yankee Stadium. They smoke, drink, and make too much noise. The cops come arrest people all the time for trespassing and being loud. In fact, the kids from this neighborhood say they see the same cop and the same ambulance on the corner by the park every night, waiting for trouble.
Trouble breaks out a lot.
In this stretch of Mt. Eden, thumping a few blocks away from the 4 train, graffiti colors the exteriors, kids with Spanish nicknames and tattoos fight members of rival cliques, and questions are met with “I don’t know anything,” by people who do.
Next to guys in sweats with ear-buds tracing lines from their pockets to their ears, Angelica Nitura looks almost out of place in skinny jeans and a blue cardigan. She talks about her favorite memory of Paredes, a 17 year-old kid they all called “Frko,” or fresh boy. It was on April Fool’s Day, and someone from another crew had taken a guy’s hat. Paredes stood up for the guy, fighting the kids who had taken the hat until they smashed a bottle over his head. Paredes walked angrily back to Nitura.
“His whole side of his head is bleeding, like busted up, leaking,” said Nitura. “I like that he came back, after washing off all that blood. I like that he stood up for his friend. That was my favorite time.”
Paredes’s crew calls itself the “F— Your Life” group, or “F.Y.L.” for short, but insists it’s not a gang. More like a family where everyone watches the others’ backs. There are maybe 50 or 60 of them, all from the neighborhood. Today, laminated badges that they designed on computers swing from their necks showing pictures of Paredes and “4/16/2010,” the date he was killed a few blocks away at 167th and Jerome Avenue. They cross themselves and kiss their fingers in front of the memorial they’ve built for Paredes, a wooden table with tall plastic flowers under his picture, a Dominican flag, and a collection of candles with pictures of saints on them.
Juandy Paredes, pictured here in a collage made by a family friend. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)
Their expressions are hard. But only four days after Paredes was murdered, tears come suddenly.
Ashley Cordero is known by her friends as “Shine.” She has her brother’s name tattooed on her right hand, and swirls of color filling the gap between her shirt and her waistband on her left side. She breaks down thinking about the first time she met Paredes. It was July 14th, and she was eating Chinese food in the park. Paredes hung out there a lot because he loved inline skating, trying out tricks on rollerblades that were fitted with a panel on the bottom for sliding along curbs and rails. He told her she was beautiful and he was going to make her his. She offered to share her Chinese food.
Now Cordero is planning the tattoo she’ll get with Paredes’s name and a pair of wings on her back. She and Nitura both feel guilty that he was killed, because they encouraged him to leave the building where they were chilling and playing with knives. It was getting too loud, the cops were bound to come. So Paredes left with two other teen boys and according to Cordero, went to the convenience store on the corner.
Paredes was stabbed five times. Cordero said he flagged down a police van nearby and banged on its windows for help. “I’m poked, I’m poked,” he told the cops.
Then he collapsed. Paramedics attended to him there on the street, but he died before he arrived at Lincoln Hospital.
The man charged with murdering him lives a nine-minute walk from where the mouthpiece used on Paredes lay full of blood in the street, up Jerome Avenue under the train tracks and past tables selling discount perfume and peeled oranges.
At his arraignment at the Bronx Supreme Criminal Court on Tuesday afternoon, Hector Bautista looked much too young to be charged with second-degree murder. The pony-tailed 18 year-old stood silently when the judge denied his request for bail.
Juandy Paredes' friends scrawled graffiti on the wall across from his family's home. They had nicknamed him "Frko," or fresh boy. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)
Outside the courtroom, friends took turns defending Bautista, a basketball player who they said was a jokester with a good heart who had stopped attending high school. They insisted he was innocent of the stabbing. But they admitted he was part of the conflicts that, fueled by graffiti, girls, and bragging rights, permeate the world of teenagers like him and Paredes.
“They lived in different places. That’s it,” said a girl who identified herself as Bautista’s girlfriend but would not give her name.
In the dimly-lit apartment on Irving Avenue where Paredes lived, cousins, uncles, aunts, and friends wore black, about to attend his funeral. They had heard about Bautista’s arrest, but wondered if police would be able to catch the other two teens police told the family were involved in the fight.
The family was calm and poised on Tuesday. Two unsmiling men went about filling a cooler with ice and bottles of water for visitors. Until, contagious as a yawn, a long, slow wail broke out from one of the dark-clad women. She lowered her head and balled her hands into fists. The high-pitched sounds of her crying spread to other family members and escaped into the bright sunlight outside, where Paredes’s friends had spray-painted white graffiti over the entire brick surface of the opposing wall.
“If you stay for 20 minutes you can read it all. Then you’ll understand,” said Dualis, Paredes’s 10 year-old half-sister.
Paredes’s room was covered in graffiti, too, blue and black scrawls painted by him or his friends swarm across the walls. “F.Y.L” appeared in several places, and on the ceiling, emblazoned with a heart was the name Brenda. The room was a disaster. A bare strip of mattress poked out from under piles of clothing that spilled onto the floor and made walking impossible. Boxes of his favorite designer shoes were stacked head-high. A heads-up penny lay near the doorway.
“He would clean it every day but that same day he’d make the same mess,” said Dualis.
Graffiti referring to Juandy Paredes' crew cover the walls in his bedroom. Paredes, 17, was stabbed to death on Friday, April 16. An 18 year-old member of a rival crew has been arrested but is denying the charges. (Ryan Tracy/The Bronx Ink)
Paredes used to play “tickle monster” with her on the bed, where they would tickle each other’s feet. They played board games like Monopoly and “Guess Who?” even though Paredes got so mad when she beat him that he swore he wouldn’t play again. Dualis said she usually won.
A computer with a large silver-framed screen sat on a small desk in the corner, where light from the window illuminated the keyboard. Coralys Nunez, who was like an aunt to Paredes, and says he was creative, smart with computers and could “unblock” any website. He thought about being a game designer, if not a fashion designer. He got all A’s in school.
But Paredes had dropped out of school. He just got tired of going, says Dualis. Even Cordero, who says she and Paredes were always together for the past nine months, didn’t know if Paredes had any goals. They just didn’t talk about that, she says.
One of Paredes’s friends created a Facebook page in his memory. Brendalee Torres captioned a picture of her and Paredes kissing with expressions of grief and love, and also, a threat.
“Whoever did this to you gonna get his, trust me.”
Cordero says none of the crew has been killed before, despite all the neighborhood rivalries. But it’s almost as if she thinks Paredes won’t be the last friend for whom she will be forced to light candles.
“The one person you don’t want to lose,” she said,” is the first one to go.”