Rows of candles flickered next to an arrangement of yellow and white flowers and two photographs in a makeshift memorial at the foot of an apartment building at 145th Street and Broadway.
Francisco Pinzon-Martinez, a 30-year-old Mexican immigrant who relatives and neighbors said worked two jobs to send money home to his parents in Guerrero, Mexico, smiled from the photos taped to a bright blue donation box in the middle of the memorial.
Pinzon-Martinez was murdered the night of Oct. 18 in the building, in an apartment that had been converted into a storage room for a Metro PCS store next door where he worked. His body was not discovered until Friday afternoon by a co-worker.
“There’s no words to describe it. There’s just no words,” said Jose Aguirre, Pinzon-Martinez’s cousin and roommate. The two shared an apartment around the corner from the building in which he died. “There’s no words to describe losing a brother.”
Following Mexican tradition, relatives on Oct. 20 placed the simple memorial near where Pinzon-Martinez died. They stayed to meet with friends and well-wishers in a sort of memorial service on the street.
Aguirre, 33, said that Pinzon-Martinez came to the United States in 1997.
“He worked at the cellphone store and a laundromat nearby,” Aguirre said. “This just came out of nowhere. All I know is that the police said someone followed him and forced their way into the room. And then, you know.”
Police sources said Pinzon-Martinez died of a hard hit to the head after a struggle that Thursday night. Paramedics announced him dead on arrival at the crime scene. The storage room was on the third floor of the apartment building.
Residents of the building were distraught.
Deborah Reed, who has lived on the fourth floor for almost 40 years, said she had known Pinzon-Martinez since he moved into the neighborhood over 10 years ago.
“He’d ask about my granddaughters, how they were doing,” she said. “We talked all the time. He was a really nice guy. He wasn’t in no gangs, didn’t do no drugs, didn’t do no drug-dealing.”
Elizabeth Urgiles, another resident, said, “When my parents told me, I started to cry.”
“I’d seen him around since I was a kid,” she said. “He was such a calm guy.”
“Beautiful people, man, they were beautiful people,” said Maria Mañon, who lived in the same building as Pinzon-Martinez and Aguirre. “All the time, working, working, working. He was a very nice boy.”
Reed said that security cameras had been placed in the building just weeks before Pinzon-Martinez’s death. “But they don’t help nothing,” she said. Pointing at the display screens in the building superintendant’s office, she said, “Look, they don’t move at all. You can’t see who comes up the stairwell on the second floor, you can’t see who comes up the stairs in the third floor.”
She said she also worried about squatters in the building. “There are all those people who are rooming in the building. They’re living in rooms but their names are not on the lease,” she said. “I don’t think it was anyone who lives here, but, you know, that makes me feel unsafe. I don’t want anything like this to happen again.”
While a few cousins stayed by the memorial, over a dozen relatives and friends gathered in the apartment Pinzon-Martinez shared with Aguirre to mourn. Aguirre had set candles next to a photo of Pinzon-Martinez on a table in the entryway. In the living room, another cousin was assembling another donation box for Pinzon-Martinez’s parents to place at the memorial on Broadway next to the cellphone store.
Aguirre said he had been on the phone with relatives and friends all day.
“Everyone here is family and close friends, and we’re all just so — I don’t know,” Aguirre said, struggling. “It really came out of nowhere.”
UPDATE: The NYPD announced two suspects Saturday night, describing both as heavyset black or Hispanic males. Photos of the suspects provided by NYPD are included below.