THE BRONX — The bodega worker gunned down by police in a tragic mistake early Friday was working at the store so he could send money to his 3-year-old daughter in the Dominican Republic, relatives said.
Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, was known for his easy charm and striking hazel-brown eyes, relatives and friends told DNAinfo New York. The clerk bolted from his uncle's Morissania bodega early Friday morning to flee three armed robbers, but the dash for freedom abruptly ended when he collided with a cop and a bullet from the officer's pistol fatally pierced his shoulder.
It was the second time a deadly tragedy struck Cuevas' family in the past two years. His father, Maleno Cuevas, was shot and killed in the Dominican Republic during a chain-snatching.
Devastated friends and relatives gathered Friday evening to mourn Cuevas outside the corner bodega where he spent many of his waking hours, sometimes working 16-hour shifts six days a week up to earn money for his daughter and her mother back in Santo Domingo.
The late-night hours came with risks. The bodega's Franklin Avenue corner was a hangout spot where Cuevas and friends liked to sit and joke around, but at night it turned unsafe, attracting drug users and other dangers. The store was a neighborhood institution known for its generosity, sometimes handing out Pampers to parents who were short on cash. The bodega didn't pull down a security gate to protect late-night workers from potential intruders, friends said.
Cuevas put in the long hours at Aneurys Deli Grocery at 1299 Franklin Ave. so he could save enough money to move his daughter and her mother to New York, friends said. "He wanted a better future for himself and his daughter," said Mickey Rodriguez, 23, Cuevas’ cousin.
Cuevas, the second youngest of four siblings, planned to follow in his younger sister Nicole’s footsteps by joining the military. He and Nicole were especially close to their father, said Louis Mejia, 31, a friend of the family. “They were still suffering from their father’s death, especially the two youngest [Reynaldo and Nicole], because they were so close to him,” Mejia said.
But Cuevas didn't let the loss embitter him. He was happy, generous, and always smiling, friends said. “He got along well with everybody,” said longtime family friend Edwin Teron. “He had a great head on his shoulders.”
Carmen Berganzo, 15, said Cuevas was like a big brother and crush rolled into one. She said she remembered walking into the corner grocery about a year ago and noticing Cuevas right away.
“I was like, ‘Oh that boy’s cute,” Berganzo said. "Ever since then we’ve been mad close."
Cuevas was different from other boys — sweeter, with no attitude, she remembered.
Berganzo said she wanted to get Cuevas' name tattooed on her back. "If I had chosen between him and me dying, I’d choose me," a shaken Berganzo said. "I'd rather die than have a nice person die."