THE BRONX — The metal fan who collapsed and mysteriously died after seeing his favorite band play at Webster Hall was a former gang member and aspiring front man who used music to turn his life around, friends said.
Dagoberto Ramos, 21, jumped, screamed and danced while watching metal band Miss May I play at the East Village venue Saturday night. When he stepped outside to get some air, he collapsed to the ground and lost consciousness.
He was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Medical Center later that night, according to the NYPD.
"He went out dancing and moshing and stage diving at Miss May I — for Bert that was the way to go," said Jenise Sarraga, 43, who bought him the concert tickets.
“We were deeply shocked and saddened to hear this news.... We'd ask that all your thoughts and prayers be with his family. We have been made aware of a webpage that is raising funds to help pay for his funeral costs. We will be making a contribution and we'd strongly urge others to do so.”
The fund had raised about $6,000 as of Tuesday afternoon.
Ramos was born to a crack addict in The Bronx and was adopted by a loving mother and a pastor father, friends said.
But Ramos lost that stable environment when he was 16 and his adoptive mother died from a stroke. He and his adoptive father began fighting and eventually stopped communicating, said Noelle Sarraga, 17, one of Ramos’ best friends.
“He went through a lot with his father and essentially became a child of the streets,” she said. “He got involved with gangs, started selling drugs and was in and out of jail.”
Ramos had eight prior arrests mostly for misdemeanors, like trespassing and jumping turnstiles, according to the NYPD.
He decided to leave gang life in 2012, moved in with relatives in Florida and worked in construction. In June 2013, he moved back to The Bronx and lived in Soundview with Jenise and Noelle Sarraga on the condition that he keep out of trouble, they said.
It was during this time that metal music helped him overcome his troubled past, friends said.
"He had all these bad feelings — it was an emotional release,” Jenise Sarraga said. “He was able to release all of that pent-up anger. His dream was to be the lead singer of a screamo band. He practiced every day in the shower for 45 minutes.”
Screaming and writing lyrics were like therapy for him. Ramos wrote about abandonment, living in the streets and dealing with loss. He wanted to be on stage and help people the same way those bands helped him, said his friend Noelle Sarraga.
The aspiring head banger was trying to put a band together and started using the stage name Alberto Scott on his social media accounts.
To help keep him on the straight and narrow, Jenise Sarraga got Ramos an internship at Build it Green NYC, a nonprofit store that salvages building material and restores furniture.
From the first day, when he wore a tuxedo and moccasins to his job interview, Ramos made a lasting impression, said his supervisor Ellis Isenberg.
“He was really an incredible dude,” he said. “ He would come in hours early just [to] work extra. We were already looking to find him a [permanent] job.”
How the 21-year-old died remains a mystery. An initial autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office did not find the cause of death so they will have to run additional tests, a spokeswoman said.
Despite years of gang life and living in the streets, Ramos did not have any serious medical conditions, friends said.
Because he was adopted, it’s difficult to know if he had any genetic conditions passed down, Jenise Sarraga said.
"He said he felt a little sick before the concert,” Sarraga said. “He said he felt like he couldn't breathe. But he wasn't going to miss Miss May I."
Sarraga and her daughter don’t blame the metal band for Ramos’ death. In many ways, it saved his life, they said.