By Gina Martinez
Friends and family of Ricky Kalisaran gathered at the site of his murder in Richmond Hill to mourn him last Friday afternoon.
At the somber, candlelight vigil, organized by state Sen. James Sanders (D-South Ozone Park), mourners sang hymns and read prayers in honor of Kalisaran, whose shooting death was the city’s first homicide of 2017.
Everyone was given a lighted candle, and white balloons were released in Kalisaran’s honor. Police have still not made an arrest in the Jan. 2 homicide, but said they have identified two persons of interest in the case, described as two black males in their 20s who may have fled to South Carolina.
Kalisaran, who was visiting New York for his grandmother’s funeral, was shot and killed when he and his brother were robbed in the early hours of Jan. 2. Police arrived outside 104-32 124th St. at 3:25 a.m. where they found 31-year-old Kalisaran with a gunshot wound in the chest and his brother Sunny, 24, with a gunshot wound to his back. The brothers were taken to Jamaica Hospital, where the older Kalisaran was pronounced dead and his brother Sunny was in stable condition, police said.
According to police, the brothers were walking toward their car after leaving The Underground Lounge, a bar one block away on 123rd Street near Liberty Avenue when they were approached by a man who attempted to rob them. Sunny was reportedly wearing a flashy gold chain at the time. The brothers resisted and the robber shot both of them after a struggle for the gun, police said.
The killer fled in a dark-colored, two-door sedan, possibly a Mercedes Benz, according to police.
The crowd at the vigil was angry, blaming gun violence and the nightclubs in the residential area for the robbery, and calling for the establishments to be shut down.
Vishnu Mahadeo, executive director of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, placed the blame squarely on the nightclubs in the neighborhood and said the community needs to be more active and vigilant to keep them out.
“This has been a senseless killing, and we as a community need to look back at what were the social forces that caused this,” he said. “Be it more clubs that we were not supposed to have in our community and to have them in residential areas when they’re not permitted to be in residential area. But our community was dormant and allowed these clubs to come in here, and I will ask all of you here to take the time to go to a community board meeting and air your voices.”
Mahadeo also said that families cannot just rely on the police to keep their children safe.
“When you go to our nightclubs, you find our youths have lawlessness,” he said. “We are the parents, we are responsible for our own kids. We should look at police as secondary support. Take some time and go to the clubs at 3 in the morning and you will be shocked at what our children are doing.”
But the owner of the The Underground Lounge, Lystra Singh, denied that her club had any involvement in the fatal shooting, claiming that contrary to the police account, the Kalisaran brothers were not at her spot before the robbery.
“Everyone keeps blaming us,” she said. “We’re very sad about the whole situation. We didn’t even know anything until we saw it in the news, but they weren’t there. We’ve checked with the police and everything, and it’s one thing we want to make clear.”
Nonetheless, Singh expressed sympathy for the men’s mother.
“It’s been a lot of bad publicity, and you know what? Some days I haven’t slept because I understand, I have kids that are the same age,” she said.
Kamla Paul, a friend of the family for more than 30 years, said the men’s mother is holding up the best she can, considering the many losses she has suffered.
“I know that the mother is not doing that well,” said Paul, who hails from the same town in Guyana as the Kalisaran family, Goed Fortuin. “This is very sad for her because it’s a time when she’s lost her mom as well. The father of this boy died months ago, then the grandfather had a stroke, then the grandmother had a stroke and got into a coma. It’s a very difficult time, it’s very heartbreaking to see. There’s so much mourning at this time. It’s heart wrenching.”
Paul said Sunny was still in the hospital but that his injuries were not life-threatening.
“He is stable, but he still has a way to go,” she said. “He’s in a lot of pain and there’s a lot of complications. He needs prayers as well, and support.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart