New York Daily News: MANHATTAN – A deadly gang shooting in the Bronx that left an innocent father dead is raising questions about the family court system as the NYPD struggles to stem the tide of neighborhood violence.

Eric Velasquez, 34, was in Fordham Heights visiting his mother when he was shot and killed outside her building an E. 184th St. at Marion Ave. on May 16, his lifelong friend Jamel Thomas said near the scene on Thursday.

“I don’t believe it. I still don’t believe it. It’s hard for everybody,” an emotional Thomas said. “Some people, they living a certain lifestyle so you can picture it. But this is a not a person who you can picture something happen to, because he don’t put himself in harm’s way.”

Velasquez and Thomas grew up together, but Velasquez had moved to Yonkers with his wife and kids. He only stopped by to see his ailing mom.

“He’s a grown man with kids. He’s a father. He’s an every day father. He’s a father that takes his kids to school in the morning, picks them up from school.”

Alberto Ramirez, the 16-year-old gang member charged in the shooting turned himself in Wednesday at the 46th Precinct stationhouse. Ramirez has been arrested three times on gun related charges in the last seven months. Because of his age, his cases were sent to family court and he was free to roam the streets.

“The problem is, they letting kids out. Get caught with a gun and get let out, get caught with another gun and get let out,” Thomas said. “To me, it don’t matter what somebody’s doing or who they are, they shouldn’t be out here getting shot.”

The shooting stemmed from a bitter rivalry between two gangs who hold territory in the neighborhood divided by the Grand Concourse. The Young Gunnaz or YG, a Bloods crew is linked to Ramirez, and the Slattery group, a Crip subset.

“We talk a lot about historical beefs, but when Slattery started 4 to 5 years ago, Ramirez was 11 years old,” a police official said. “He doesn’t even know why he’s hating. He just grew into it. We’re seeing that our shooters are getting younger and younger.”

Cops said Ramirez and a second suspect simply walked up and opened fire, known in gang parlance as “spinning the block,” meaning demonstrating dominance. Velazquez, an unintended target, was stuck by one 9-mm. round. A second suspect remains at large.

With 174 shooting incidents, last month was the worst May citywide for shootings since 1996, when there were 198 in the month, NYPD data shows.

The police official said the case highlights an issue with Raise the Age, legislation passed in 2018 which changed the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18.

“When we first catch him with a gun in October an innocent family almost gets hit. Prior to Raise the Age, he would have been considered an adult,” the official said. “And frankly we wouldn’t be having this conversation because he would have been held in jail. There’s just no consequences in family court.”

“When he’s back home and getting cases sent to family court, what’s the incentive not to pick up another gun? If he was facing big boy court after the first or second arrest, then maybe we don’t have this incident which is ultimately going to ruin his life,” the official added.

Eric Velasquez, 34, with his son Jax.
Eric Velasquez, 34, with his son Jax – Obtained by the Daily News

On Oct. 21, just 16 days after his 16th birthday, Ramirez was arrested for possession of a loaded firearm. A search turned up three guns. Detectives think Ramirez may have dropped the gun and it went off.

That case was referred to Family Court because of Ramirez’s age.

Then, on Dec. 12, he was busted with a loaded and defaced .25-caliber pistol and charged again with gun possession.Once again, a judge transferred the case to Family Court.

Judge Denis Boyle ordered him released on his own recognizance over an objection from prosecutors.

Ramirez’s third arrest on Feb. 23, was for reckless endangerment. He allegedly shot himself in the foot on Feb. 8 while on his way to “spin the block” in Slattery territory.

Police sources said he lied about his injury and said someone else shot him. Security video debunked his claim.

Cops on the scene where a 34-year-old man was shot and killed in the Bronx in May.
Cops on the scene where a 34-year-old man was shot and killed in the Bronx in May –Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News

His case was once again sent to Family Court, over the strong objections of the Bronx DA’s office, the sources said. He was released from a juvenile facility on March 31, authorities said.

On March 2 after Ramirez’s lawyer asked for a reduction in bail and Judge Boyle lowered the amount to $10,000-$25,000. The family was able to post bail a few weeks later.Alberto Ramirez was charged with manslaughter and illegal weapons possession Wednesday for gunning down 34-year-old dad Eric Velasquez on May 16 outside a building on E. 184th St. and Marion Ave. in Fordham Heights.

Alberto Ramirez was charged with manslaughter and illegal weapons possession Wednesday for gunning down 34-year-old dad Eric Velasquez on May 16 outside a building on E. 184th St. and Marion Ave. in Fordham Heights – Theodore Parisienne/for New York Daily News

After Velasquez’s murder, a tit-for-tat series of gang-related shootings erupted in Fordham Heights, law enforcement sources said.

“There was just a boiling over of gun violence in the 46th Precinct,” a police source said.

The 46th Precinct redeployed more officers to the area to stem the violence. The shootings came against the backdrop of one of the worst months for shooting incidents in the city in 24 years.

Ramirez’s sister Marisol Duran, 30, questioned the police account. “We’re still trying to figure out the situation, because I’m reading the newspapers and it’s a lot of lies,” Duran said.

“We had family issues he lost his father, there’s a lot of things that’s been changing him up. But he’s really a good kid,” she added.

  • Top Feature Photo: Alberto Ramirez was charged with manslaughter and illegal weapons possession Wednesday for gunning down 34-year-old dad Eric Velasquez on May 16, outside a building on E 184th St and Marion Ave in Fordham Heights