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Rally for 15-year-old Shooting Victim

June 29, 2011

By ALEX KRATZ and DAVID GREENE

Local residents say witnesses need to come forward with information about the shooting of 15-year-old Yvette Marie Torres, who took a bullet to the back of her head while apparently trying to break-up a fight during a party in the Fordham area on June 11.

At press time, Yvette, a student at DeWitt Clinton High School, was in critical condition at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital.

With police apparently making little progress on the case, a group of concerned people, led by Nelson Figueroa, a childhood friend of Yvette’s mother, created a Facebook page, and set up a phone line and e-mail account so witnesses, who might be scared to talk with police, could come forward with information that might lead to the shooter.

On Saturday, June 25, near where Yvette was shot, on the corner of E. 187th Street and Valentine Avenue, the group had scheduled a “Rally for Yvette” to try and drum up witnesses and information.

Ed. Note: Anyone with information about this crime can call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), submit to www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. Additionally, local resident Nelson Figueroa says witnesses can call (347) 670-3843 or write to JUSTICE4EVIE@gmail.com.

Precinct Murder Count Doubles Over 8 Days in April

June 22, 2011

Following a string of shootings over eight days in the area, the 46th Precinct beefed up its patrols around Creston Avenue

By Fausto Giovanny Pinto

In April, residents within the 46th Precinct saw the coming of spring and three brutal murders.
Following the murders, all shootings, including a brazen teen-on-teen killing during rush hour near bustling Burnside Avenue, local residents fear the situation may only get worse.

“Crime was getting better and now there is no control,” said a 35-year-resident of the area who only wished to be identified as Eddie. “People need to take care of these kids.”

In front of the Pizza shop where Eddie stopped to get a bite to eat stood the stark reminder of violence, a street memorial of candles, flowers, and empty liquor bottles.

“Summer is coming,” he added as a forewarning. “They ain’t seen nothing yet.”

The Burnside incident occurred on April 12, around 6 p.m. when police say 17-year-old Shamal Coles shot and killed 16-year-old Dontae Murray, also wounding another man. According to a police press release, cops patrolling nearby heard the gunshots and after a brief chase apprehended Coles, who allegedly was in possession of a .380-caliber gun. Coles has been charged with 2nd degree murder, assault, and criminal possession of a weapon.

Recently, a large police presence could be felt along Burnside Avenue with numerous cops stationed at various corners, walking the streets, or cruising around in patrol cars.

Despite the infusion of officers, residents remain cautious. An elderly man crossing the street did not want to be interviewed for fear of retribution, a common fear. “You want me to get killed,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”

Less than three blocks away lay the scene of another grizzly murder.

“I was walking home from Church on Sunday at 2 p.m. and I see a guy dead on the corner,” said Michelle G., a local resident, referring to the murder of a Bridgeport, Conn. man that occurred near E. 182nd Street and Creston Avenue.

While the Police have not released any motives or leads in that incident, The Hour, an independent newspaper from Norwalk, Conn., reported that Norman McCassling, the man killed on Creston, was a suspected drug dealer. Last March, the paper reported that McCassling was shot in Norwalk in an apparent drug deal gone wrong and found with crack on his person when.

At the nearby 182nd Street D-Train subway station, a tattered sign was posted offering $1,000 leading to the arrest of anyone who posses an illegal firearm.

On April 19 in front of 1668 Davidson Avenue, Ernest Atiso was shot in the torso inside a gray 2007 Dodge Charger. Atiso was transported to St. Barnabas Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Crime statistics posted online for the 46th precinct ending the week of April 17 show a spike in murders, up to five so far this year, from two during the same period last year. This doesn’t include the April 19 murder, which would bring the total to 6, half of last years total of 12, only four months into the year.

Police at the 46th Precinct did not respond to inquiries for this article in time.

“There are signs citywide that crime is up in certain areas. Police are trying to address the new surge. The delay of the NYPD Academy class doesn’t help,” said Xavier Rodriguez, district manager of Community Board 5, referring to the city’s recent decision to delay the addition of rookie cops as a cost-saving measure. “I would ask citizens to play their part. Especially parents.”

Young Father Killed; Hit-and-Run Driver Charged

April 21, 2011

By FAUSTO GIOVANNY PINTO

Thomas Riley, a young father who lived in Mt. Hope was struck and killed last month by a drunk driver as he attempted to hail a cab along East Fordham Road, police and witnesses said. He was 23 years old.

Riley’s tragic death happened just a month after an 11-year-old was killed crossing the Grand Concourse, raising alarm among local residents about pedestrian safety.

Police say Riley, who lived on the Grand Concourse, was struck by a vehicle traveling at a high speed, at the intersection of East Fordham Road and Bathgate Avenue, just after 4 a.m., on Sunday, March 20. The young man who dreamed of opening up his own barber shop died a short time later at St. Barnabas Hospital.

Riley’s grandmother, Adeline Riley, flew in for the March 25 funeral at Ortiz Funeral Home.

“I feel like I lost a son more than a grandson,” she said in a telephone interview days after the funeral. “I raised him from when he was a year old and when he got older, he moved in with his mother. I brought him up in the church. He did not smoke or drink. He was saving up to buy a barbershop.”

David Williams, Riley’s uncle and a member of Community Board 5, said everyone called his nephew “T.J.” and that he would be sorely missed.

“We lost someone who could have made a difference in the community,” said Williams, the co-chair of Board 5’s youth committee. Williams said he is going to address pedestrian safety issues with the help of the board and reach out to elected officials to see if there’s something that can be done about what is becoming an increasing problem in the area.

Witnesses at the scene provided police a detailed description of the black, 1998 Chrysler Town and Country minivan with significant front-end and windshield damage. Police quickly stopped the vehicle on Third Avenue, near the Cross Bronx Expressway.  

Police later announced the arrest of Seth Johnson, 35, of Manhattan, who was charged with vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of an accident.

Johnson reportedly registered a .105 on a sobriety test and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The vehicle Johnson was riding in was promoting a “Mambo Sundays” event at the, “Sofa Lounge,” formerly, “The X-Bar,” on Cedar Avenue, near Fordham Road and the Major Deegan.

One of the event’s co-promoters, Walter Tfon said, “It’s hard to give your opinion when the life of people changes in seconds, but [Johnson] always did his job and I have never seen him do anything wrong.”

Tfon said Johnson was not at the club and did not know where he had been drinking the night before the crash.
Riley is survived by his 4-year-old son.

Huge Drug Bust at River Park Towers

February 21, 2011

A grand jury indicted 22 alleged drug dealers from River Park Towers, a complex of high-rise apartment buildings at Richmond Plaza, on the Major Deegan Expressway in Morris Heights.

The defendants are charged with multiple counts of selling and possessing cocaine, heroin and marijuana, according to a press release from the Bronx District Attorney’s Office sent out Jan. 20.

The arrests were the result of an undercover investigation launched last June in response to an increase in shootings and other violent incidents at the Towers, according to the D.A.’s office.

“There have been people saying that there are a lot of drug sales,” said Leon Johnson, Tenants Association president. “We had a lot of people hanging out [outside], but that doesn’t necessarily point to the fact that they were selling drugs. I have to go by what the D.A. and Police Department say.”

Investigators said the deals primarily took place in a public courtyard shared by several of the apartment buildings, which they described as a “drug bazaar.”

The 22 people being charged, who range in age from 23 years old to 51 years old, sold drugs to undercover detectives more than 120 times, according to a statement.

Sedgwick House Burglarized

January 7, 2011

Computers, Christmas Tree Among Items Stolen From Tenants Association Office

By JEANMARIE EVELLY

The tenants association office of a local housing development was burglarized twice over the past two months, with the thief, or thieves, taking off with everything from a flat screen television to the office Christmas tree.

The office, at Sedgwick Houses, a seven-building development on University Avenue and 174th Street that’s run by the New York City Housing Authority, was robbed in mid-November and early December in what residents say looks like an inside job.

“They used the key,” said association member and tenant Lucille White. “They had to, because the locks weren’t tampered [with].”

Luther Greene, the association president, said he entered the office on both occasions to find it ransacked, with money and thousands of dollars in equipment stolen. Greene said he contacted police at the 46th Precinct both times, but hasn’t heard of any leads or developments. After the second robbery, he said officers told him that they could not locate the police report from the first.

Two NYPD spokesmen said they have no information about the burglaries and could not locate reports from either incident, but said it’s possible they were filed under a different address within the housing complex.

“I don’t think they report nothing,” Greene said. “I keep calling there [the precinct]…I’m about to give up.”

The robberies are similar to another that took place this summer at a NYCHA building for seniors that’s also managed by Sedgwick Houses, residents say. Lenora Ward, resident association president at the building at 228 W. Tremont Ave., said she entered her first-floor office in August after having been out sick to find almost everything missing, including a brand new computer and television that had been recently delivered.

“There was nothing there but just the chairs and a table,” she said, adding that there were no obvious signs of a break-in.

At Sedgwick Houses, the office was missing its Christmas tree and presents that were to be given out at the development’s Kwanzaa Celebration, which was subsequently cancelled.

“They took a lot of our things—three computers, three printers, a fax machine,” White said. “They took folding chairs, a microwave, coffee, paper towels. I could just go on and on. We worked hard to get those things, so it’s disappointing,” she continued.

Both Ward and White say robberies and similar crimes in the development projects are rare. “I’ve been here 40 years, and I’ve never heard of a burglary in any of the apartments,” White said.

She said the tenants association plans to write letters to local elected officials, in the hopes of getting funds to buy an alarm system for the office.

U.N. Diplomat Found Dead

October 7, 2010

Photobucket                      CESAR MERCADO’S BODY IS REMOVED FROM THE SCENE (PHOTO: D. GREENE)

By DAVID GREENE

Police are still investigating the death of a high-ranking United Nations official, found with his throat slashed in his Grand Concourse apartment in Mount Hope on Sept. 23.

According to police, the body of Cesar Antonio Mercado, 34, the Nicaraguan Consul General, was discovered by a livery cab driver, who was to take him to the United Nations, where leaders were gathering for the 64th session of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Officers from the 46th Precinct were called to Mercado’s sixth floor studio apartment at 2070 Grand Concourse, at 10 a.m., on Sept. 23. Mercado’s body was reportedly found just inside his front door.

Police say Mercado had been stabbed several times in his abdomen and his throat was cut so deeply, he was nearly decapitated. A steak knife and paring knife were found at the scene.

It was initially assumed that Mercado had been murdered. But an NYPD spokesman, speaking earlier this month, said neither homicide nor suicide had been ruled out. The investigation is ongoing. Police sources told the New York Daily News that Mercado had ingested liquid drain-cleaner before his death and that he had recently been diagnosed as HIV positive.

“We can only think of positive things when you think of this person,” said Kirk Jiminez, 46, a Grand Concourse resident and friend of Mercado. “What took place, we don’t know and don’t want to make assumptions.”

The friend continued, “He was very in tune with the community as far as outreach. He would help the homeless. He would do whatever he could, and it’s unfortunate.”

Several who live in the building claimed Mercado was not the first death to happen there, and that a tenant on the third-floor was killed two years ago. Despite that incident and several other violent crimes, residents say security cameras in the building haven’t worked for years.

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