BRONX CRIMINAL COURT — The two reputed Latin King members charged with the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Alphonza Bryant III fired "randomly" at the teen and his friends as a message to the gang's rivals, prosecutors said Tuesday during their arraignments.
Eric Landron, 23, and Raul Pacheco, 21, both Bronx residents, were apprehended Saturday in Rhode Island and later charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and gun possession for the April 22 shooting.
“In an effort to send a message from the Latin Kings to the streets,” one of the defendants "fired shots at a crowd" gathered on a Longwood block, Theresa Gottlieb, a prosecutor in the Bronx District Attorney’s office, said during Pacheco’s arraignment.
“An innocent individual was killed as a result of his conduct,” Gottlieb added, “to show that he’s a strong gang member.”
During Landron's arraignment, Gottlieb said the shooter "fired randomly into the crowd."
Bryant, a well-loved and stylish teen just weeks from graduation, had been speaking with friends outside a building at 1159 Fox St. about 8 p.m. when a burst of gunfire erupted. He was fatally struck in the chest.
Police believe the two suspects went to that spot looking for rival gang members but, when they found none, decided instead to shoot at the people who were by chance standing there.
Bryant’s murder drew widespread attention when Mayor Michael Bloomberg cited the shooting in a fiery speech that warned of the dangers of limiting police powers, including the practice of stop-and-frisk.
At Tuesday’s proceeding, Landron and Pacheco appeared separately before Judge Harold Adler.
Pacheco, who limped in and out of court, is a “threat to society,” Gottlieb told the judge. He has several prior bench warrants and has served time in jail, she added.
After his arrest, Pacheco made “statements implicating himself in the homicide,” police said. (Landron did not talk to cops, they said.)
Pacheco’s temporary attorney, William Cember, asked that the defendant not be interrogated until he is assigned a permanent lawyer.
Landron’s attorney, Camille Abate, told the judge that her client works at a barbershop and has been arrested previously only for nonviolent offenses, including marijuana possession and a check-cashing scam.
Landron is not a gang member and “steadfastly denies having anything to do with the shooting,” Abate said in court.
“It was one gun shot by one individual," she said, "and it was not Eric Landron."
Pacheco wore jeans and a long-sleeved gray shirt. Landron wore black-framed glasses and a blue jumpsuit. Neither man addressed the judge.
Adler sent the defendants back to jail to await trial. They are expected to appear before a grand jury on May 10.