Slain father tried to rescue son from Kingsbridge gang

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There is a strange sensation standing on the third floor of 85 Strong St.

Person after person who passes through the hallway or on the stairs lingers at one door — covered in the colorful décor of a now out-of-date summer theme. 

“No one has been in there since it happened,” one neighbor said in Spanish as she walked by. “I knew them. They are a nice family.”

The Almonte-Sanchez family has run a day care out of their apartment for the past two years, according to their downstairs neighbor who did not want to give her name out of fear for her safety. But no one’s been home since the family’s patriarch, Pedro Almonte-Sanchez, was gunned down in front of the Kingsbridge Heights apartment building last week. 

It happened around 6 p.m., on Sept. 26, when police say a group of teenagers approached the 39-year-old Almonte-Sanchez while he and his son Justin were getting into their car on Strong Street. Zachary Brown, 19, delivered the fatal shot, police said. 

According to one neighbor, Almonte-Sanchez’s son had found himself in some trouble at school hanging out with reported gang members, but had since tried to disassociate himself from them. 

“He made some bad decisions, but he wanted turn his life around,” said the neighbor, who also didn’t want to share her name. “The dad was trying to help him get out, and that’s when this all happened.”

Almonte-Sanchez was doing just that in the days leading up to the shooting, according to 50th Precinct deputy inspector Terence O’Toole. The father would try talking to Brown, but instead of being civil conversations, they were more like arguments. And that didn’t go over well with Brown.

Despite reports Brown was a member of the Bloods gang, O’Toole instead said he is part of a smaller “crew” based out of 131 W. Kingsbridge Road. Brown has a long rap sheet, O’Toole added, with more than seven arrests within the 50th Precinct alone.

“Is it a gang? Not in the traditional sense, but the person who did the shooting is just a bad human being,” O’Toole said. “He was under the impression that he could do stuff and get away with it because he’s a juvenile, but that’s not going to help him this time around.”

Apparently Almonte-Sanchez already confronted Brown earlier in the day on Sept. 26, O’Toole said, but the conversation had gone south, which he believes led to the killing. 

Brown was still at large as of Tuesday, according to O’Toole, although he’s confident police will apprehend him soon. 

“There was talk of him turning himself in, but that hasn’t happened as far as I know,” O’Toole said. “He’s a young kid, he’s not going far. The investigating officers have been to the house and everything, so hopefully we will be able to find him.”

Anyone with information on Brown should call the Crime Stoppers hotline at (800) 577-8477, or visit the Crime Stoppers website at NYPDCrimeStoppers.com. 

Brown has not been charged with a crime, and unless convicted, courts presume him innocent of the allegations.