Fatal Shooting Robs a Neighborhood of a Longtime Friendly Face

He worked his shift at Pizza Palace in Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood late Sunday. He baked pies, took orders and chatted with customers. At closing time, he bid his co-workers farewell and headed for his home in the Bronx, walking several blocks to the Bx12 bus stop, passing bright bodegas and clumps of litter on the way.

But the man, Alejandro Ramirez, never got to the stop. He made it only a few blocks before he was fatally shot in the chest.

Mr. Ramirez, 45, was one of two people killed in a shooting at West 207th Street and 10th Avenue around 11:40 p.m. on Father’s Day; another Bronx man, Michael James, 44, was fatally shot, in the face and torso. A third victim, a 37-year old man, was wounded in the leg. A 16-year-old was arrested in the shootings, for which police have not given a motive.

The number of shootings across New York City has dropped compared with last year, but that was little consolation for a neighborhood shaken by the Father’s Day shooting, and for a city girding for summer’s traditional increase in gun violence.

Mr. Ramirez, remembered in social media posts as a friendly face, left a legacy as a kind soul. In the days after his death, memorials in his name sprang up around Inwood, prompting people to stop at the sight of his photo surrounded by candles.

“The pizza shop is home for a lot of us,” said Katherine Mota, who came to a vigil for Mr. Ramirez on Friday night that drew scores of mourners. “I lost a family member.”

Although he lived in the Bronx with a roommate, Mr. Ramirez had been a familiar presence in Inwood since he was 18. Before working at Pizza Palace, he had worked at a bodega in the neighborhood, and many people knew him from there. He had separated from his wife years ago and had grown apart from his son. Co-workers and customers at Pizza Palace had become his second family.

Neighbors trickled in and out of the restaurant this week, offering condolences and prayers and sharing stories about Mr. Ramirez.

Jennifer Rodriguez, 50, grew up in Inwood and had known Mr. Ramirez for years. He was, Mr. Rodriguez said, constantly chatting with customers, and keenly attuned to the funny side of neighborhood life.

Mr. Ramirez knew Ms. Rodriguez’s children, grandchildren and most of the rest of her family. After her twin brother died, she said, Mr. Ramirez always checked in on her. In the aftermath of Mr. Ramirez’s killing, she said she felt echoes of her own loss in the community’s outpouring of love and support.

Mr. Ramirez’s colleagues described him as a hard worker who always seemed to have a smile on his face. To them, he was someone you wanted to shoot the breeze with over a couple of beers even after spending most of the day together in a busy, hot kitchen.

Everybody is very saddened and feels terrible about the news,” said Panagiotis Kakanas, an owner of Pizza Palace. “He was a great guy. He’s definitely going to be missed.”

Mr. Ramirez’s son, Alex, said that even though he and his father had not spoken in years, he was shopping for a burial plot Friday. Mr. Ramirez regularly called his mother to make sure he was OK. For that, Alex Ramirez holds him in high regard.

“He was a great man,” Alex Ramirez, 25, said. “He was someone who didn’t need to be lost, taken away from us.”

The fatal attack was a rare event, and not just in New York. Nationally, homicides are down compared with last year. And the 465 people shot in the city this year, fatally or not, represents a 5.9 percent decrease compared with the same period in 2023.

But summer in New York often brings a spike in violence. And in the 28 days before Friday, there were 44 percent more shooting victims in the city compared with the same period last year.

Christopher Herrmann, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, called the jump a “big red flag.”

The origin of the late-night burst of violence that killed Mr. Ramirez remains unknown.

Surveillance footage from a 10th Avenue store showed a man in a black hoodie and sneakers walk past several people in front of a corner store just after 11:30 p.m. Sunday and begin to argue with one of them, according to court papers. The man then pulled out a pistol, pointing it at one of the people and tried to fire. The group scattered, and the gunman also ran off.

Less than 10 minutes later, video from the same camera showed the hooded man reappear at the intersection of West 206th Street and 10th Avenue, whip out his gun and fire four rounds.

After being shot, Mr. Ramirez hobbled to a nearby restaurant seeking help. His roommate, Geraldo Cruz, 49, works there and saw his friend knocking on the glass. Another worker opened the door to bring him inside and they tried to help him while someone called 911.

Mr. Cruz, tears in his eyes, recalled Mr. Ramirez’s final moments as blood spilled from his body and he muttered, “They shot me.” He still had a pulse when an ambulance took him away, Mr. Cruz said. Mr. Ramirez was pronounced dead at a hospital.

On Wednesday, the police arrested 16-year-old from the Bronx, and charged him with two counts of second-degree murder and two second-degree counts of criminal possession of a weapon. It was unclear whether Mr. Figueroa and the men who were shot knew one another, the police said.

At the vigil on Friday, people crowded around Pizza Palace to pay tribute to Mr. Ramirez. The small sea of neighbors came in orange and white attire and lit candles, and heard a sermon delivered in Spanish that mentioned hard work and kindness.

“Let the gates of Heaven open for Alex, because with that smile, immediately, it should,” Ms. Mota said.

After the ceremony, Alex Ramirez said he regretted not having spoken to his father for so long. Now, he said, he would cherish forever the words they did speak.

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