Bronx Aspiring Football Player Murdered at 17

A 17-year-old aspiring football player at Lehman High School died of a stab wound Friday in the Bronx’s Parkside neighborhood, police said.

Kino Brown was pronounced dead on arrival at Montefiore Medical Center. Police arrested Pedro Suazo, 22, on suspicion of murder.

Details remain murky. Suazo’s parents say four men in the parking lot of 3475 Bivona St., where Brown lived, jumped their son.

Brown’s friends and his high school football coach describe Brown as a young man trying to do well. Police have declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation.

Candles, photographs, personal notes and empty liquor bottles commemorate Brown at a memorial in front of his building. Over 250 people have visited it, according to Tenant Association President, Emma Miller. Miller had known Brown for over 12 years.

Just two weeks ago, Brown had made the football team at his high school. His coach, Mike Saunds, said that seniors aren’t usually let onto the team, because they lack the experience of players who have been playing since tey were freshmen. But Brown was persistent, so he made an exception.

When asked about Brown, Saunds replied, “He was prone to get into some fights. But he was on the track to graduate. He was trying to be a productive member of society.”

Saunds continued about Brown’s penchant for fighting , “We all do things that sometimes you’re not supposed to do. Everyone makes mistakes.”

Family and friends of Brown, however, didn’t think his murder was related to a mistake.

“He was at the wrong place at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a friend of Brown who was like his older brother. “Shit happens in the Bronx. It’s the hood.”

Though many of Brown’s friends were aware of events surrounding his murder, they were reluctant to talk. One friend said he was still, “too shaken up,” echoing the sentiment of others.

One friend, who helped Brown after he was stabbed couldn’t mention his friend’s name without becoming teary-eyed. He’d waited with Brown for the ambulance, which took 45 minutes to arrive. It was too late. The friend is seeing a therapist to cope.

Brown’s friends were eager to share memories of him. Mark Eastwick, 18, had known Brown for three years. They’d played basketball and smoked weed together. Eastwick said Brown had plans to attend Fordham University next fall.

Miller, who was a mother figure to Brown, also lost a son to street violence in 1992. Brown’s mother has visited her everyday since her son died.

“He was a beautiful person,” said Miller. “He always helped the seniors and all the people around.” She said one word to describe him would be “respect.”

A memorial poster to Kino Brown with classmates’ notes hanging in his high school

Because police haven’t yet released details regarding Brown’s murder, it’s unclear whether the suspect, Pedro Suazo, 22, knew him before the incident.

Pedro Suazo’s parents didn’t think their son was capable of murder. His mother, Gujuana Suazo, 46, said her children grew up attending church. She and her husband always encouraged them to do the right thing.

That’s why she said she wouldn’t have let her son leave the house Friday to go out with his friends. On Saturday morning, she realized her son hadn’t come home, and sent one of her other sons to look for him. He found out Pedro Suazo had been arrested.

Gujuana Suazo says her son has been making daily phone calls from jail. Recalling one conversation, she said he told her, “’Mom, I was defending myself. If it wasn’t him, it would’ve been me.’”

Suazo’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

Gujuana Suazo expressed grief for Brown’s mother having lost her son. But she said she was also suffering.

“We lost a son, too,” she said regretfully. “I feel the same way they feel. I’m a mother.”

Three years ago, the Suazos moved to their current home on Edson Avenue in the Bronx from University Avenue, because it was an unsafe neighborhood.

“I wanna bring my boys up in a better place I told my husband,” said Gujuana Suazo. “We had to get our boys outta there. And then this happens.”

Kino Brown, 17, was headed in the right direction. He had managed to find his way onto the main road from the treacherous side road he had been on. But fatal accidents happen on main roads, too.

Brown was stabbed in the parking lot of his Bronx residence on 3475 Bivona St. at about 3 a.m. on Friday during an altercation after which he was transported to Montefiore Hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

“He was prone to get into some fights,” said Brown’s football coach Mike Saunds.  “But he was on the track to graduate. He was trying to be a productive member of society.”

Just two weeks ago, Brown had made the football team at Lehman High School.  Saunds said that although seniors are usually not let onto the team, he made an exception for Brown because of his persistence.

“We all do things that sometimes you’re not supposed to do,” said Saunds. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

Close family and friends of Brown, however, didn’t think his murder was related to mistakes he had made. “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said a friend of Brown who was like an older brother to him. “S— happens in the Bronx. It’s the hood.”

Although many of Brown’s friends were aware of what had transpired on the night of his murder, they were hesitant to talk about it. They said they were still “too shaken up.”

One friend of Brown in particular who helped him after he was stabbed couldn’t even mention his friend’s name without getting tears in his eyes. He had waited with Brown for the ambulance, which arrived after 45 minutes when it was too late. He is having such a hard time coping with the death of his best friend that a therapist has been called to assist him.

Some of Brown’s friends had not been around for his murder but were eager to share memories they had of him. Mark Eastwick, 18, had known Brown for three years. They played basketball and smoked weed together. Eastwick said that Brown had plans to attend Fordham University next fall.

At the entrance of Brown’s building, there’s a memorial for him replete with candles, photographs, personal notes, and empty liquor bottles. Over 250 people have visited Brown’s memorial, according to Tenant Association President Emma Watson. Watson had known Brown for over 12 years.

In 1992, Watson had also lost a son to street violence. Brown’s mother has been visiting Watson everyday since her son’s passing for support since Watson is capable of understanding what she’s going through. Watson said she could never conceive of Brown being involved with anything like drugs or gangs that could have landed him in a bad situation like the one that got him killed.

“He was a beautiful person,” said Watson. “He always helped the seniors and all the people around.” Watson said that the one word to describe Brown would be “respect.”

The parents of the suspect said they felt the same way about their son Pedro Suazo, 22. His mother Gujuana Suazo, 46, said her children grew up attending church. She said that she and her husband have always encouraged them to do the right thing. They never imagined their son would be arrested for something like murder and criminal possession of a weapon. If he were to be arrested, they expected it would be for something like alcohol intoxication.

Gujuana Suazo has learned the hard way that motherly instincts tend to be correct. She had been having premonitions about something bad happening to her son. That is why she said she would have not let him leave the house on Friday if she had known he was planning on going out. It was not until Saturday morning that she realized her son hadn’t come home. She sent one of her other sons to find out where he was. Her son returned with the news that Pedro Suazo had been arrested.

Pedro Suazo has been calling his family from jail everyday. He told them his side of the story, which involved him being jumped by four guys, one of whom was Brown. He said they had guns and knives.

“Mom, I was defending myself,” Pedro Suazo said on the phone. “If it wasn’t him, it would’ve been me.”

Police are unwilling to reveal information about Brown’s murder since the investigation is ongoing. They have surveillance footage from Brown’s building on which to base their investigation.

Pedro Suazo’s preliminary hearing is scheduled for Thursday. He told his family members that he wants them to be present in court. But Gujuana Suazo has reservations. She said she is scared Brown’s brother might try and seek revenge on her family by attacking her other sons.

Gujuana Suazo expressed grief for Brown’s mother having lost her son but she said that she was also suffering. “We lost a son, too,” she said regretfully. “I feel the same way they feel. I’m a mother.”

Similar to Brown, Pedro Suazo had grand plans for the future, too. On the day he was arrested, he had applied for his passport to travel to his family’s native country of Honduras in January.

“I never believed I would be in this kind of situation,” said Pedro Suazo’s father Leonardo Suazo, 46. “We are not bad people.”

Just three years ago, the Suazo family moved to their current home on Edson Avenue in the Bronx from their previous home on University Avenue, because it was in an unsafe neighborhood. “I wanna bring my boys up in a better place I told my husband,” said Gujuana Suazo. “We had to get our boys outta there. And then this happens.”

(Written Oct. 5, 2011 for Reporting and Writing class)

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