A reputed gang member in New York learned his fate this week for firing a single shot from a .380-caliber pistol that killed a 17-year-old aspiring rapper out filming a video in a crowded McDonald’s parking lot, prosecutors said.
Luis Cruz, 21, was sentenced to 13 years in prison and five years post-release supervision in the death of Armanis Valdez, prosecutors said in a news release. Cruz pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter on May 30.
“Rival gang members showed up at the filming of a music video at a McDonald’s and exchanged gunfire,” Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark said. “Five people were shot, including a 17-year-old boy who died from his wounds. The defendant fired the fatal shot.”
Cruz’s attorney, Lawrence Sheehan, told the judge Cruz “had a rough life” but has denied being a gang member, Gothamist reported.
The judge minced no words, saying his actions were gang-like and the potential for others to be hurt was considerable.
“This is like a nightmare situation,” the judge said, Gothamist reported.
The bloodshed happened on May 15, 2021, at about 9 p.m., authorities said. Cruz, with the ATR Trinitarios gang, exchanged fire with the Shooting Boys gang in the fast food parking lot at Clay Avenue and Belmont Street in Claremont.
Valdez was hit in the chest and died at a hospital. Four others — three men and a woman between 24 and 31 — suffered leg wounds. Amauris Vasquez faces charges in the shooting that wounded the four others, Gothamist reported.
The teen’s aunt told the New York Post she was in denial.
“He was a beautiful boy, full of a lot of love,” she told the paper. “He was very talented. He wanted to become a rapper.”
When Cruz was arrested days later, the victim’s mother, Anabel Valdez, wanted to know why.
“I’d like to ask him why he did this, and also what did my son ever do to him or if he even knew him,” she told the New York Daily News. “I don’t hold hate for him. I don’t. I have to forgive him to move on.
“I wish I could tell him that he wasn’t put here to take a life. He left me with a big hole in my life by taking my only child. I would tell him that he should have thought about his family and about his mother before doing something like this and that he’s taken a beautiful life and now has ruined his whole future.”
She told the Daily News her son had been recovering from a stabbing that punctured his liver two months earlier on a subway and was surprised he wanted to go out the night he died because he was still recovering.
The victim’s grandfather, Juan Valdez, told the paper he brought his grandson from his native Dominican Republic two years before he was killed. The teen’s mother said his father had died, and she was raising him as a single mother.
“It still doesn’t make sense to me,” Juan Valdez told the newspaper of his grandson’s death. “It hasn’t sunk in.”
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