There are clear images of the man who shot and killed Francisco Leal on Feb. 2 and even the police have told officials it should be an easy case, but no one is coming forward with a suspect.
At a press conference last Thursday morning across from the Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where Leal was murdered, officials asked community members to step forward with information.
“Someone lost a child on Saturday,” Queensbridge Tenant Association President April Simpson said. “That could be my child. That could be your child. All hands on deck. Someone saw something.”
“We have some good images but we need some help,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said.
Leal, 27, a native of the Queensbridge Houses who had since moved to Manhattan, was leaving a bodega on 21st Street and 41st Avenue at 9:40 p.m. when a suspect shot him once in the chest, according to police.
The Police Department released surveillance footage showing two people in dark clothes and hooded sweatshirts fleeing the murder scene.
“We don’t know any details about why,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor, pastor of Center of Hope International Church and president of the East River Development Alliance Federal Credit Union, said. “What I hear from the streets is that the suspects came from elsewhere and that it was a long term altercation between them and the victim.”
Taylor is working along with area politicians to try to educate the community that there are ways to report the suspect anonymously.
“People don’t want to get involved and become a target,” he said. “It’s true. We are in New York and we don’t know how deep these killings go.”
He added that at the New York Police Department’s tips line, officials do not record names and tips are completely anonymous.
Simpson reiterated that she wasn’t a “snitch,” but she tried to appeal to the community’s personal side by saying Leal was someone’s son and a brother.
Crime Stoppers can be reached at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477).The public can also submit tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577.
Individuals from the ERDA, the Astoria/ Long Island City Chapter of the NAACP, The PSA 9 Community Council and the Queensbridge Tenants, along with Van Bramer and state Senators Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), also bore the freezing weather to speak of gun control and crime prevention.
Peralta commended the state Senate for passing gun control bills after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that tighten restrictions on licensing and background checks, but lobbied for more. Peralta is sponsoring a bill that would put an invisible microstamp on ammunition.
“Often shell casings are the only thing left on a scene,” Peralta said. “Officers could determine where they were purchased [with microstamping].”
Others spoke of giving youth more activities and investing in libraries and education. Sugar Ray, a spoken-word poet and gun control activist who knew Leal, said the culture around guns needs to change.
“We need to deal with this,” Ray said. “That one young brother wants to take another young brother’s life is a real issue. It’s a real issue of humanity.”
“We as a whole community need to change the culture to stop the violence,” Taylor said. “Guns are not cool.”