Looking for Money, Bully Got Death
Oct. 12, 1996
NEW YORK (AP) _ Marcelo ``Heavy'' Gonzalez, a 300-pound, 6-foot-2 hulk, sowed terror with ease in his neighborhood, dealing drugs and robbing people for years. Often, he picked on Jesus ``Churito'' Velazquez, a 67-year-old man with artificial legs and a $546 monthly disability check.
One day last month, Heavy came to Churito's stoop looking for money again. Instead, he got four bullets in the head and back and died two days later.
``The reason why I shot him was because I'm an old man and he's picking on me all the time,'' Churito told police after his arrest on murder charges.
Some of Churito's neighbors figure he performed a public service.
Gonzalez, 30, was the bully of his Upper West Side neighborhood of Puerto Rican newcomers, older Jews and yuppies.
He used to steal from the corner grocery on Columbus Avenue and 83rd Street, said grocer Mohammed Saleh.
``He used to give me a hard time here. I'm glad he's dead,'' Saleh said. Heavy would walk in on a Sunday morning, when it's illegal to sell alcohol, open a beer and drink it, then leave _ ``and you couldn't do anything.''
In the basement barber shop on 83rd Street where Heavy got his thick, dark hair cut, no one could remember him with a job. Narciso Perez, superintendent of the apartment house on West 85th Street where Heavy lived with his godmother, said Heavy once had a job at a shoe store.
Residents said he did some small-time drug dealing and occasionally smoked crack.
He also preyed on Churito, once threatening to take his artificial legs and hold them for ransom, neighbors said. The shakedowns made it that much harder for Churito to pay the $240 rent for his tiny room in the seedy Kent Hotel.
Two days before Christmas, Churito said, Heavy sent a woman to steal $200 hidden in a lamp in his room. The same woman picked his pockets early last month as Heavy lurked nearby waiting for the money, said Churito, who sometimes used a wheelchair and sometimes a walker.
In March, Heavy robbed another Kent Hotel resident, and in June he sold crack to an undercover cop, police said.
On Sept. 10, neighbors said, Heavy demanded $100 from Churito, but he refused. Later that day, as men played dominoes on sidewalk tables and other residents were out enjoying one of the last warm evenings of summer, Churito came out of the Kent on his walker and found Heavy sitting on the steps.
The older man had powerless legs but a powerful pistol in his room. Dragging his limbs up to the first floor, he returned with the gun.
``I shot him right away,'' Churito told police. ``I don't know if I hit him on the first try, but I know I shot him again.''
Heavy twisted around to give Churito a last, horrified look, cursing as the bullets cut him down, witnesses said.
On Oct. 3, Churito rolled into court for his arraignment, his left wrist cuffed to the wheelchair. After being charged with crimes that could bring him 25 years to life behind bars, he was jailed on $50,000 bail.
The district attorney's office maintains the shooting was not self-defense.
In a jailhouse interview Wednesday, Churito said he lost his gangrenous legs to diabetes 10 years ago and had to give up his job of 15 years _ fixing vending machines in Manhattan's garment district.
He left Puerto Rico 40 years ago. He never married, all his close relatives are dead, and he is alone except for a few friends in the neighborhood.
``Now I'll have whatever God gives me,'' he said, ``and I'm praying for a peaceful life.''