Kathleen Horan, Reporter, WNYC News
Kathleen Horan is a staff reporter for New York Public Radio, covering the neighborhood beat. She also reports 'Reset', an ongoing series documenting police-community relations in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
It’s been one month since 16-year-old Raphael Ward was shot and killed near his Lower East Side home. Since then, another teen has been arrested in connection to the shooting.
The suspect, Timothy Montalvo, now 17, lived with his grandmother just blocks from Raphael on Avenue D. He confessed to holding the gun that eventually shot and killed the popular boy who hoped to play pro baseball one day, police said.
Timothy has been charged with second degree murder and weapons possession and is due back in court next week.
Raphael’s mother Arlene Delgado is only starting to deal with his loss. Her grief quickly switches to anger when she thinks about the only suspect apprehended so far in the case.
"He's my son's age,” Delgado said. “I don't know what kind of life he lived, but there had to be some type of home training. … So what happened? Somebody told you to carry the gun and you just carry it? Are you that stupid? I'm sure your mother told you that."
On a recent afternoon, Timothy’s 61-year-old grandmother Lydia Bonilla slouched into a friend’s couch in the Jacob Riis housing projects on Avenue D. She teared up when asked about whether she kept tabs on Timothy.
“I would always ask him, ‘Where are you going? What are you doing?’” said Bonilla, who has been Timothy's main caregiver since her daughter died four years ago.
Timothy’s older brother, David Sanchez, said his sibling went from a happy-go-lucky kid to someone who was checked out and withdrawn at 12 years old — when their single mother, a recovering drug addict, died from complications following a lung transplant.
“My mom was basically our walking diary,” said Sanchez, 29, “She was everything to us and when that gets taken away from you. You get confused, like, now what?”
After his mother’s death, Timothy would stay in his room and not communicate with his family. When he thought no one was watching, his brother said, Timothy would go into his grandmother’s room and speak to the urn that held his mother’s ashes.
(Photo: Timothy Montalvo, 17, is a suspect in the shooting death of Raphael Ward, 16.Courtesy of David Sanchez)
Sanchez said it was then that his brother sought comfort in the streets and with the wrong people. The shooting happened as a rivalry between youths at the Jacob Riis and Baruch Houses was heating up. Sanchez said his youngest brother, who is 13, was jumped late last year and got his jacket stolen and Timothy was determined to get it back.
But when asked why Timothy would agree to hold a gun for someone, Sanchez said it had more to do with trying to impress his peers.
“Showing off — that's all,” he said. “’I'm actually holding a gun I got a gun in my possession,’” he said imitating the thought process, “’I want to be down. I want to be a follower instead of a leader.’”
Since the shooting, he said his family has received death threats and that he fears for his grandmother’s safety.
He said the family is also worried that the more time that passes without another arrest in the case, all of the blame will fall on his brother.
(Photo: David Sanchez shows the tattoo of his five brothers’ names he had inked on his leg.Kathleen Horan/WNYC )
Sanchez said he hoped that speaking out would encourage a continued investigation by police. He also wants to make amends.
“I would like to speak for the mother — I would look her in her eyes and tell her I'm sorry for your loss and I'm sorry that something so tragic had to happen.”
Sanchez said his brother and Raphael are forever linked.
“Two kids in the wrong place at the wrong time who both lost their lives,” he said, looking away. “I mean one fatally, and one to the system.”