Grief and Rage Merge at Memorial for Slain Bodega Clerk
MORRISANIA — They came in the midday heat to scribble farewells on neon poster board and cry into one another's shoulders. They stayed through the muggy evening to light candles and shout curses at stoned-faced police officers.
Family and friends close enough to call themselves family gathered throughout the day and into the evening Friday to mourn the death of Reynaldo Cuevas, a 20-year-old father and bodega clerk who was fleeing armed robbers when he collided with a police officer and was fatally shot.
As neighbors passed the bodega, called Aneurys Daily Grocery, which police blocked off on Friday, they stopped at the memorial to describe Cuevas and the store where they saw him daily, which many said was as much a community center as a deli.
But just as often throughout the day, the conversation turned to the police.
Frank Graham, father of Ramarley Graham, the unarmed teen who was shot by a cop in his Bronx home, said Friday’s tragedy reminded him of the one that befell his family.
"It brings back chilling, chilling memories from seven months ago when my son was murdered in The Bronx by Richard Haste from the 47th Precinct," Graham said, citing the officer who allegedly shot Ramarley.
Soon after, a crowd of about two dozen people carried candles and marched south from the memorial to the 42nd Precinct stationhouse, where the officer whose bullet hit Cuevas is based.
Even as surveillance video emerged in the afternoon that seemed to confirm the police account that said the shooting was unintentional, people faulted the cops for what they described as an undisciplined response to an armed robbery with potential hostages.
"If you see a young man running out of a store without a gun in his hands, you shouldn’t be shooting him,” said Jose LaSalle, an organizer with the police reform group, Stop Stop and Frisk, who passed out plastic whistles and anti-stop-and-frisk stickers at the memorial Friday.
Many others said they were unconvined the shooting was an accident, and thought instead that the officer whose gun fired into Cuevas must have assumed he was one of the robbers.
“He died for calling the police,” said Antione Davis, 21, a friend who witnessed the shooting early Friday morning. “The people he thought were coming to save him.”
Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Friday that as Cuevas ran out of the store he crashed into the cop — a seven-year veteran who has never before fired his weapon — causing the gun to accidentally discharge a round into Cuevas’ shoulder.
"I found out this morning and I started crying," Angel Garcia, 15, said to another young man at a makeshift memorial across the street from the bodega at 1299 Franklin Ave. where Cuevas worked. "They killed our friend for no reason."