By Ivan Pereira
Police arrested a frequent customer of the Lucky Deli over the weekend, accusing him of being the gunman in last week’s shooting of a clerk at the Laurelton store.
Shawn Forde, 29, of 229th Street in Springfield Gardens, was arrested Sunday and arraigned later in that night on second-degree murder and robbery charges in the murder of Juan Torres, 54, the Queens district attorney said.
Torres was working with his brother Felix at the deli on Merrick Boulevard Oct. 23 when Forde allegedly robbed the store armed with a gun, according to the DA Richard Brown. Juan Torres came to his brother’s aid when Forde allegedly pressed Felix Torres’s head to a counter and demanded money before shooting Juan in the head, then fleeing with cash, Brown said.
“The victim’s life was cut short the moment that the defendant decided to pull the trigger — a decision that has had a devastating impact on the victim’s family and could lead to the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison,” Brown said in a statement.
Police had identified Forde as their suspect last Thursday and informed the Torres family about their investigation at a meeting in Laurelton. Felix Torres’s wife, Francis, broke down in tears as she gazed at a mug shot of the suspect.
Her daughter Brenda, 23, said the identity came as a shock to her because she knew the suspect from the community.
“When I saw the photo, I knew he was a familiar face,” she said. “He’s a regular customer.”
Felix picked Forde out of a lineup following his arrest, according to police.
If convicted of the charges, Forde faces up to 25 years to life in prison, according to Brown. City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), who has been working with the family and other deli owners in southeast Queens since the shooting, urged the DA to prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.
“I am calling on the justice system to give the maximum sentence to ensure Mr. Forde never sees the light of day again,” he said in a statement.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4546.