Tag Archive | "Crime"

Bronx Court Officers Honored for Stopping Gunfight near Yankee Stadium

Bronx Bureau President Ruben Diaz, Jr., center, praised court officers for heroic acts beyond their daily duties, including stopping a vendor gunfight in late August.


It was lunchtime on a sunny day outside Yankee Stadium  last month.

Bronx Supreme Court Officer Raymond Mercado had just picked up his Spanish takeout meal when he heard the piercing pops of gunfire and watched a crowd of people fleeing in panic.

 “Everyone was running away from the gunshots,” said Mercado, 42. “I was just looking for the shooter.”

He was one of six court officers who rushed to the scene Aug. 23 after an angry vendor opened fire on the busy corner of 161st Street and Gerard Avenue. Mercado picked up the revolver the shooter had flung on the sidewalk while his fellow officers chased down the suspect. “We did what we were supposed to do. We acted on our training and we acted as a team.”

On Thursday afternoon, Bronx Bureau President Ruben Diaz Jr. honored the court officers for their acts of heroism in a small ceremony inside Diaz’s office in the Bronx County Courthouse on the Grand Concourse. Besides Mercado, Diaz gave accolades to Bronx Criminal Court Officers Paul Tammaro, Vincent Allis and Wascar Herrera, and Civil Court Officers Steve Snyder and Katie Dalton.

“You make your job so effortless that we don’t realize that you’re prepared, you’re trained and you  have the heart and the courage really can take charge of the situation,” Diaz told the officers, who stood side by side in a small conference room while proud family members clapped and captured the moment on their cell phones.

Seven family members, mostly siblings, of Officer Katie Dalton, 48, said they were not surprised by their sisters’ bravery.

 “No one messes with Katie,” Dalton’s sister, 46-year-old Jennifer Russell, chimed in.

Court Officer Katie Dalton, 48, hugs her sister Thursday shortly after Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. commended her heroism during an Aug. 23 vendor shooting.

The alleged shooter, 52-year-old water stand vendor Horace Coleman, is accused of firing three to six rounds of ammunition  at a newspaper seller after getting into a big argument with him the day before over a turf war, witnesses told The New York Post.

By the time Dalton made it to the shooter, fellow officers had the suspect pinned down on the street, so she scrambled to help the victims. The shooter hit 60-year-old newspaper vendor Douglas Watkins and 41-year-old Clarence “Clay” Pearson in their torsos. Dalton knelt down by Pearson as officers waited for medical aid.

Dalton recalled Pearson saying, “‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die,” she said. “I  just tried to keep him calm,  just tried to help him out, to make him feel better.”

Pearson died on Aug. 25, and Watkins survived. Coleman, who had sold sunglasses and bottled water, is facing murder charges.

Bronx County Administrative Judge Douglas McKeon commended the court officers for helping prevent the erratic gunfight from escalating further.

“Their commitment doesn’t end or begin at the courthouse steps,” McKeon said. “They truly epitomize the kind of characteristics that we need in officers today. When money is tight, they’re asked to do more.”

Amid budget shortfalls, the New York State Court system has eliminated more than 1,300 positions through layoffs and attrition over the past few years, including court officers from all ranks.

Mercado said he has aided police in a handful of similar scuffles during his eight years in the court’s civil division. He can’t help but feeling a little uneasy these days on his lunch break, and he tries to be extra vigilant as he strolls the crowded thoroughfares near the stadium.

 “It’s a little nerve-racking,” he said. “You don’t feel it while it’s happening; you feel it afterward, and then you start thinking you have a family.”

Mercado’s 5-year-old son, Justin, smiled wide as his dad shook Diaz’s hand and accepted his certificate. If he doesn’t cut it as a singer like Justin Bieber, Justin Mercado wants to become a cop or court officer like his father, Mercado’s wife, Jane, said.

“He looks up to his dad tremendously,” she said. “It’s exciting for him.”

Court Officer Raymond Mercado strives to be a good role model for his 5-year-old son, Justin.

Thursday’s awards ceremony also honored several other court officers for their acts of heroism in two other incidents. On June 19, Capt. Anthony Manzi, Sgt. Ramon Dominguez and court officers Jose Reyes and Carlos Rivera helped catch a man accused of burglarizing several vehicles in the area. Court Officer Angel Ripolls of the criminal division helped save a 1-year-old who was choking on Sept. 3.

“It’s cool for me to know that everyday people who are doing their jobs are here in our borough, and are also our heroes,” Diaz said.

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Bronx Robber Threatens Five More Victims with Hypodermic Needle

A robber who uses a hypodermic needle to threaten his victims was linked to five more incidents in the Bronx. The recent robberies make a total of eight reported incidents in the East Tremont area.

The police released a video of the man who is described as about 40 years old, 5 feet 6 inches tall and 120 pounds. His victims, all male, and as young as 14 had iPads, cell phones or other electronics stolen when they were stopped, NBC New York reports. The man was last seen wearing a black leather Yankees hat, a black hooded sweatshirt, gray jeans and black sneakers.

Anyone with information in regards to these incidents is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS or atNYPDCRIMESTOPPERS.COM or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577.

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Family Mourns Unsolved Murder of Bronx Woman

Pamela Graddick, a daycare worker, was last seen by a friend who shopped with her at the Gateway Center mall near Yankee Stadium. Relatives quickly took action two days after she vanished on August 11, posting flyers around Highbridge for clues of her status.

On September 4, Graddick, 26, was found stuffed in a trash bag near the Bronx River Parkway, the New York Daily News reports. Graddick was the youngest of four children. Family and friends mourn the loss of a woman who, according to her father, Bernard Graddick, was an excellent student and a star basketball player at Walton High School. She continued her academic and athletic career at Sullivan County Community College in upstate New York.

The NYPD and Yonkers detectives are investigating her death.

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PHOTOS: Morrisania Mourns Robbery Victim Shot by Police

9 September, 2012- Bronx - Reverend Que English (left) holds prayer for Reynaldo Cuevas, the young father from the Dominican Republic accidentally shot by police during a robbery scuffle on Friday morning. (The Bronx Ink/Jika González)

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Further reading: Morrisania Mourns Robbery Victim Shot by Police

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Morrisania Mourns Robbery Victim Shot by Police

Clergy works to calm activists as anti-NYPD feelings rage

Rain began falling Saturday night just as Rev. Ruben Austria led a passionate prayer for justice and healing in the aftermath of a botched robbery that left a 20-year-old bodega worker dead from police gunfire.

Huddled in a tight circle at 169th Street and Franklin Avenue, roughly 50 mourners — family members, friends and community activists — turned out Saturday night in honor of Reynaldo Cuevas, the young father from the Dominican Republic accidentally shot by police during a robbery scuffle early Friday morning.

“We want to stand in solidarity with the family and pray that our outrage doesn’t lead to in-rage. That it doesn’t cause us to consume ourselves and tear one each other down,” Austria told the group, with he and fellow clergy starting a chorus of “Hallelujah.”

Rally participants gathered around a makeshift memorial draped with flowers, rosaries and hand-scribbled notes across from Aneurys Daily Grocery in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. Cuevas worked six nights a week at the store, often staying for 16-hour shifts.

Community activists joined cousins of Reynaldo Cuevas in a prayer vigil Saturday night. “We want to stand in solidarity with the family and pray that our outrage doesn’t lead to in-rage,” Rev. Ruben Austria said. (ADAM PEREZ / The Bronx Ink)

The memorial included a few dollar bills, some cigarette butts and a lottery ticket — the type of loot the armed robbers tried to make off with in a backpack before police arrived.

Around 1:50 a.m. Friday, Cuevas, in an “understandable panic to get away from the gunman as fast as possible,” ran outside the bodega to escape the masked robbers and collided with a police officer, according to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, and the officer accidentally fired his weapon, striking Cuevas in his left shoulder. He died at St. Barnabas Hospital.

“I want to extend my condolences to the Cuevas family for their loss,” Kelly said in a statement Friday. Kelly emphasized the events had transpired in “split seconds.”

Some came to the Saturday night rally simply to mourn the loss of Cuevas, described by relatives as a kind-hearted young man who’d been saving to send money to his 3-year-old daughter, Jamie, in the Dominican Republic.

“He was hard-working and humorous and caring,” said Ashley Rodriguez, 14, a cousin of Cuevas. She said she last saw Cuevas two days before his death, when he helped her get through some issues she was facing with high school. Cuevas was a good listener, she said, and he urged her to stay focused on her studies.

Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, worked nights at the bodega, saving money for his 3-year-old daughter, Jamie, in the Dominican Republic.

“How many parents got to bury their kids? When is this really going to stop?” said Juanita Young, an activist with Families of Stolen Lives and Parents Against Police Brutality. “I am so angry at what just happened here — that young man just trying to make a life for him and his family … When is enough enough?”

The candlelit vigil, announced via a cardboard sign at the memorial site and on a Facebook page for Cuevas created Saturday, also drew activists from the New York Civil Liberties Union and Stop “Stop and Frisk” Freedom Fighters, who oppose the NYPD’s controversial tactic of searching people on the streets over concerns police disproportionately target people of color.

“People are out here not just for this incident, but because I think what everybody feels and knows and understands is there’s been years of police harassing and targeting young black and Latino men,” Austria said.

Ashley Rodriguez said she’s not sure her cousin’s death represents a bigger problem; she just wants to see an investigation into the officer who shot him. For now, she wants that officer suspended.

“It’s uplifting to know that even people that didn’t know him are supporting us because they know this wasn’t right,” said Mary Rodriguez, 24, another cousin of Cuevas who was wearing an anti-“Stop and Frisk” button.

A downpour dispersed the crowd on Saturday, with some activists announcing plans to reschedule a march for Wednesday, and to attend a funeral for Cuevas on Monday.

Saturday’s event was the second emotional vigil honoring Cuevas this weekend. On Friday night, after the news vans and most reporters had left, the crowd erupted into angry shouting at the police, who stood quietly across the street. Austria was there, too, working to calm the small crowd for several hours and prevent the scene from escalating into a violent confrontation with the officers.

“The police have to be held accountable when they use excessive force, but we have to hold ourselves accountable. The community’s got to hold each other accountable because the violence between us is unacceptable just as well,” Austria said. “Nobody gets a pass for doing wrong.”

Staff writers Sadef Kully, Adam Perez and Jan Hendrik Hinzel contributed to this report.

The makeshift memorial included a few dollars, cigarette butts and used lottery tickets–booty found on the suspects after their arrest, said police. (ADAM PEREZ / The Bronx Ink)

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Teen girl shot in Morris Heights – NY Daily News

An 18-year-old girl is clinging to life after being shot in the head Sunday morning, reports the Daily News. The Victim, whose name has not been released was shot while walking with two men at 2:15 a.m. near West Tremont and Grand Aves. She was rushed to St. Barnabas Hospital.

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House arrest: Why Fordham residents are trapped in their homes

Fordham and Kingsbridge residents keep their homes heavily padlocked due to rising concerns about crime and prostitution. BIANCA CONSUNJI/The Bronx Ink

Before 19-year-old Alex Nash could drop his pants, a motion detector flooded what had been a dark, empty driveway with light.

Cursing under his breath, Nash snatched up his bundle of clothes and ducked into another garage. With no lights to deter him, Nash dressed quickly, keeping still whenever a car drove by. He swapped his baggy trousers for black tights and inflated two condoms before jamming them down his shirt.

“I’m a hot mess,” Nash said, brushing out the bangs on his disheveled wig. “Fix my boobies, will you?”

Nash is a prostitute who works the neighborhoods of Fordham and Kingsbridge in the Bronx. The tall, slender teen isn’t a transvestite, but he dresses in drag to grab the attention of potential clients who come to the area in search of sex.

“I go to Fordham because the money is easy,” said Nash, a California native who lives with a cousin in Queens. “You can always find clients there.”

He spends most of his time in the Village with his friends, a mixed group of transvestites and gay teenagers. Many of them are sex workers. In the evening, they roam around Christopher Street, but at midnight, they take a 40-minute train ride to Fordham to “get some coin,” a term they use to refer to payment for sexual services.

According to Nash, it sometimes takes hours to pick up customers, who usually drive by in cars. But on that particular night, he stood on the intersection of 192nd and Davidson for barely two minutes before a man sidled up to him to negotiate a night in a motel. They left together.

For sex workers such as Nash, who wants to become a nursing assistant, prostitution in Fordham is a way to make a quick buck. “The money is so good here,” said Nash, who charges about $100-150 for an hour of sex. “It’s better than working in a job.”

“Prostitutes and raccoons”

According to residents, the corner of 192nd and Davidson is a prostitution hotspot. BIANCA CONSUNJI/The Bronx Ink

Although prostitution has long been a problem in Fordham, with Jerome Avenue being the epicenter of the freelance sex trade in the Bronx, it’s only starting to become an issue in the surrounding residential area. But because most of the residences around Kingsbridge Heights and Fordham Manor in the West 190s are single-family houses, it’s not easy for residents to just pack up and leave as they would if they lived in rented apartments.

The 52nd Precinct, which covers Kingsbridge and Fordham, has an estimated crime rate of just 2.5 percent in the past two years, but according to residents such as Magdalena Roble, it seems higher. “I’ve been living here for 30 years, and it’s never been like this,” said Roble, a housewife.

For a handful of Fordham residents, the increasing prevalence of prostitution in the residential areas of the neighborhood has become so common that they treat it as another annoyance—just like household pests.

“Our biggest problems here are prostitutes and raccoons,” said Ben Tetteyfio of Grand Avenue, who started padlocking his gate at night after one of his tenants saw a prostitute leaving with a client. “Hookers have sex at the back of the house. They just enter the gate and do their business in the backyard.”

“It can’t be helped,” Tetteyfio said. “They leave condoms behind, so I have to sweep them up after.”

Adeline Walker-Santiago, vice president of Community Board 7, said the precinct’s crime statistics did not reflect the darkening mood of the Kingsbridge and Fordham communities, which are composed primarily of Bengali and Hispanic immigrants.

“Those areas have been hit the hardest in the past few years,” said Walker-Santiago, who has been a community volunteer advocate for 13 years. “We used to have gangs here in the ‘70s, and they’re coming back. We’ve had a rash of recent crimes, including a man some thugs beat to death, plus a 4-year-old who was shot. It’s not the prostitutes who are responsible for them, but their presence is a measure of what’s happening to the neighborhood.”

Walker-Santiago said the Fordham streetwalkers came from as far as Brooklyn and Queens, but a number of them are locals. “Some homeowners didn’t even know their tenants are the same ones they see on the streets,” she said. “Prostitutes come because they know they can get away with it. Nothing’s being done to shoo them away.”

But police officers from the 52nd Precinct said they were working on bringing down the number of prostitutes in the area, although they would not provide the official number of prostitution-related arrests. “We patrol the streets and do decoy arrests,” said Officer John Rivera. “We’re working on it.”

However, Abdur Rahman Khan, 57, said the NYPD’s efforts to eradicate prostitution and crime were insufficient. “From midnight until 5 a.m., a minimum of 10 to 15 prostitutes—men and women—are out in the street outside my home,” said Khan, who lives on Davidson Avenue.

“Where there are prostitutes, there are pimps and drug dealers,” said Khan, the imam of the Bronx Muslim Center. “This area is dangerous.”

All houses, old and new, take extra security precautions to secure their homes from intruders. BIANCA CONSUNJI/The Bronx Ink

A dream house turned into a prison

In a public brainstorming session in November, Bronx Councilman Fernando Cabrera and Council Speaker Christine Quinn suggested installing security cameras in high-risk areas. But some residents, including Roble, had already installed hidden cameras in their homes. Sophisticated security systems are increasingly becoming a common feature in this part of town, where nearly every first-floor window is barred with metal rods. At first glance, the streets look harmless enough: a string of brick houses with picket fences and flower pots in pocket gardens. But there are no children playing in the streets, and gates are secured with padlocks and metal ropes.

Mohammed Solaiman Ali, who moved to Fordham in 2002 after living in Astoria, Queens, for five years, pointed out hidden wires in his living room—evidence of a $1,600 burglar alarm and surveillance system that costs him $100 a month to maintain. For Ali, currently an unemployed real estate broker, the expense is crippling but necessary.

“I have no income, but I have no choice,” said Ali, 45, a Bengali immigrant and a member of Community Board 7. He said the increasing crime and prostitution rates made him want to leave the neighborhood, but increasingly low real estate prices prevented him from doing so.

In December 2006, Ali took out a mortgage of $675,000 for a house on Grand Avenue. In 2007, a young woman entered his home through a window and took $3,000, plus some jewelry, and held a gun to his wife Johanara’s head. In a separate incident that same year, Ali said an alleged prostitute and a male companion assaulted him outside his home. According to Ali, police arrested the woman, who was eventually imprisoned for three years.

Unfortunately for Ali, who now takes on odd jobs to make ends meet, the 2008 collapse of the housing market cut the value of his property in half, forcing him to stay in a house he no longer wanted. His two-story residence is spacious and airy, with toys laid out on the front porch and pastel walls marked with crayon scribbles from his three children. “It was my dream house,” he said. “But now, it feels like a prison.”

Despite facing financial struggles, Mohammed Solaiman Ali invested in a $1,600 security system and pays a monthly fee of $100 to maintain it. BIANCA CONSUNJI/The Bronx Ink

Ali said some of his neighbors, particularly those from the Bengali community, felt the same way. His friend, Mohammad Karim of West 192nd Street, is burdened with property that is currently valued at $394,000, considerably less than the $740,000 that he paid for it in 2005, and lower than the street’s median property price value of $457,000.

Transient residents are considered lucky to be given the chance to leave; “Some people have just started leaving,” Walker-Santiago said. “Two people I know moved out because they worked late hours, and they were just too afraid to go home late in this area.”

The wary, frightened atmosphere that festers in the neighborhood is ideal for sex workers such as Nash, who said that residents mostly leave him alone to do his business. He said he had been arrested on numerous occasions for prostitution and disorderly conduct, only to be released after two or three days when his family bailed him out.

Clutching a brown paper bag that concealed a can of fruit punch Four Loko, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage, he admitted that his work was occasionally dangerous and led to rough encounters with law enforcers. “I hate cops,” he said. “They tried to frame me for cocaine possession, but all I had was Vicodin that wasn’t in a bottle. Didn’t stop them from scratching me up or calling me names.”

Nash does not see himself as a danger to the community; all he knows is that it is an easy way to scrape together cash for his vices, and perhaps get to save up to train for some real work in the future. “But no matter how broke I am, I’m never going to beg for change in the streets,” he said. “That’s what my ass is for.”

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Man shot to death in 52nd precinct, NYPD

Police found a man shot in the chest near Bainbridge Avenue yesterday. Medical responders took him to St. Barnabas Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival, according to the New York Police Department. No arrests have been made at this time and the investigation is ongoing.

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