By Ivan Pereira
While police hunt for a fugitive wanted for gunning down a Laurelton deli owner over the weekend, City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) is calling for an end to the violence that has been terrorizing southeast Queens over the last couple of months.
Juan Torres was shot in the head during a robbery at his deli at 220-23 Merrick Blvd. around 10 p.m. Saturday night, police said. Torres, 54, of Brooklyn, was tending the store with his younger brother Felix when the robber armed with a handgun made his way into the deli and demanded money, investigators said.
Although the siblings complied with the robber’s demands, ï»¿he shot Juan Torres on his way out, police said.
Sanders, whose offices used to be located near the deli, said the Torreses have been working in the neighborhood for at least a decade and never deserved to be victims. Sanders’ office said another brother of the Torreses was killed during a separate robbery at a Ridgewood deli in 1999.
“The courage, selflessness and sacrifice of Mr. Torres displayed in the face of this maddening, insane act of violence will always be remembered by all who knew him,” the councilman said in a statement.
The authorities released a sketch of the suspect Sunday. He is described as a black man between 40 and 45 years old, between 6 feet and 6 feet 2 and about 200 pounds, according to police. He was wearing a black sweater, investigators said.
There had been no arrests of press time Tuesday and the investigation was ongoing, police said. The Torres family, immigrants from the Dominican Republic, could not be reached for comment.
Southeast Queens has seen a surge in murders over the last few months that have resulted from out-of-control parties or an increase in gang activities, according to investigators. During the summer of 2007, a group of gang members were arrested for a string of bodega robberies around southeast Queens.
Sanders has scheduled a meeting this Thursday night at the African American Benevolent Society of the Department of Sanitation at 220-13 Merrick Blvd. to discuss the violence.
“Young people need to think before they act and to learn that it only takes a split second to make a decision that you will regret forever, to do something that can end the life of another and utterly destroy your own. Violence begets violence in an endless and insane cycle,” he said.
Anyone with information on the deli murder is urged to call Crimestoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS, text their tips to 274637 and then enter TIP577 or log on to nypdcrimestoppers.com. All reports will be kept confidential.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.