Editor's note: This article first appears in the latest edition of the Norwood News, out on streets and online now.
By Alex Kratz
While 15-year-old DeWitt Clinton High School student Yvette Torres fights for her life at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, a group of people, many of whom have never met her, some from as far away as Massachusetts, are doing their best to track down the person who shot her in the back of the head and bring them to justice.
Yvette was shot in the head after she confronted a gunman at a June 11 party in an apartment building near Fordham Road, on the corner of East 187th Street and Valentine Avenue. It’s unclear exactly what sparked the confrontation or why the gunman fired the shot that hit Yvette. But it is clear that there were witnesses to the crime and the shooter remains at large.
On June 17, the New York Post reported that a 17-year-old boy had been arrested and charged with Yvette’s shooting. But the NYPD says no one has been arrested and the investigation is ongoing.
Seeing that the investigation had stalled, Queens resident Nelson Figueroa decided the police could use some help. Figueroa grew up with Yvette’s mother in Far Rockaway, Queens. Their families were tight and, being the same age, Figueroa and Yvette’s mother knew each other well. They hadn’t seen each other in years, but Figueroa knew she had moved to the Bronx. When Yvette’s grandmother (Yvette’s mother’s mother) died earlier this year, Figueroa reached out to his old friend via Facebook to offer his condolences. Soon, they began catching up and formed a group of friends from the old neighborhood.
A couple of months later, Yvette was shot. Friends in the group were posting photos and messages of support, but Figueroa wanted to do more. Someone must have seen what happened, he thought.
“That’s the thing that’s bugging me,” Figueroa said. “I’m from an urban area. I know you don’t want to be labeled a snitch or a rat.” But people need to get over those fears, he said.
To build up a support system and create a place where witnesses could feel comfortable coming forward, Figueroa launched the idea for a “Rally for Yvette” and set up a Facebook page to advertise the event. The idea was to pass out fliers and solicit information about the shooting. Figueroa also set up a phone number and e-mail address where people could also offer information.
“I was hoping for maybe 15, 20 people,” Figueroa said.
But word quickly spread, thanks in large part to Being Latino, a self-proclaimed “communication platform” for Latino issues on Facebook that has nearly 60,000 fans. The group was started by Lance Rios, a New Yorker who Figueroa says lives in the Bronx.
As of this past Tuesday, Figueroa says 105 people have indicated they will attend the Rally for Yvette on Saturday, July 2. The crowd will include a significant contingent of people from Brockton, Mass., where, in 2009, a 16-year-old girl named Chantel Matiyosus was shot and killed while coming out of a baby shower.
For nearly two years, Chantel’s mother, Stephanie Matiyosus, kept the investigation into her daughter’s murder alive — passing out fliers, setting up a memorial walk to bring attention to the crime and even offering $1,000 reward, according to Enterprise News. Earlier this year, after a witness came forward, a man was charged with Chantel’s murder.
Matiyosus set up the Shy-Shy Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to stopping and preventing gang violence. For Saturday’s rally, Figueroa said, the Shy-Shy Foundation created fliers they will bring to the Bronx from Massachusetts.
The Rally for Yvette will take place in front of 2396 Valentine Ave. from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. If anyone has information about the shooting of Yvette Torres, they can call (347) 670-3843 or e-mail JUSTICE4EVIE@gmail.com. Anyone with information can also call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto the Crime Stoppers website at www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or by texting their tips to 274637 (CRIMES) then enter TIP577. All calls are strictly confidential.