It has been a long time since Eugenio Castro has slept peacefully, especially on weekends, in his home in Santurce.
He lives two blocks from the intersection of Corchado and Condado streets, where at around 2:30 a.m. this Monday a 34-year-old man was murdered, who was near the District nightclub.
“This happens constantly,” Castro said. “You can’t sleep with these puppets at 2:00 and 3:00 in the morning. The Can-Ams screaming, spinning. You call the Police and they do what they can within the resources they have.”
“This is how you are at home… that is not a firecracker, there are 100, 200 shots that they fire and it is worrying, because this continues,” he added. “You really can’t sleep. And when you work, they sleep. I hope that we can take action on this, that the police can do something, because it is a danger.”
The victim’s body was left lying on the ditch in the early hours of this Sunday, next to a vehicle. Two steps from the body, dozens of bullet holes could be seen on the wall of the business and a metal door that is not accessible to the general public.
While forensic personnel analyzed the scene, they placed over 90 evidence marks, almost all of them .40 and 7.69×32 caliber bullet casings.
According to the director of the Criminal Investigation Corps, Edwin Figueroa, a man identified by his family as Jose Melendez Lopezarrived with another 45-year-old individual and other people to a street near the scene and were heading to enter the nightclub.
“At that moment this other vehicle comes down Corchado Street and they shoot at these two gentlemen,” said Figueroa.
“We understand that two or more people were shot because there are two different calibers”he added.
Before noon, the only reference they had, captured by security cameras, was of a compact white vehicle. At the moment, they had no view of the gunmen, the license plate or the model of the car.
Melendez Lopez did not have a criminal record. On the other hand, the injured man had been charged with attempted murder and violation of the Weapons Law in 2015, but the charges were dismissed.
However, investigators think that the target of the attack was Melendez Lopez, since the injured man ran towards the entrance of the business and the gunmen did not follow him, but rather remained in the attack against the deceased, according to what can be seen from the scene.
The director of the Homicide Division, Idamaris Morales, said that later they hope to find out if Melendez Lopez and the other people who accompanied him were in another place previously and if some type of situation arose that was related to the crime.
“We are going to do several interviews to see if it sheds more light on what happened,” Morales commented. “There are some young people who were with them who will be interviewed.”
With this crime, the number of people shot in a total of three incidents near businesses in San Juan during the weekend increased to ten. In one of those other cases, five people were injured at the Ocean Club business, while four were injured at Latino’s Pub.
In the case of Ocean Club, Figueroa said it was “on the outskirts of the business. We understand that there are some disagreements with some people fighting in the business. “Someone intervenes and shots break out in the early hours of the morning.”
In relation to Latino’s Pub, the inspector noted that “this vehicle arrives, which they say is a black minivan, they open both doors, some individuals get out and start shooting at the structure of the business. “It was in the early morning hours, with four injured inside the business.”
“It is a pattern that this type of event occurs at that time,” said Figueroa.
Hopeful with the Public Order Code
For his part, Castro expressed that, like other neighbors, he is hopeful “this can be resolved because there is no tranquility or peace. The house two blocks away shakes as if they were right next to you.”
“We hope that with the new Public Order Code, which comes in now (on November 9), we can take action on the matter and that it is not a dead letter,” he said.
Among the provisions of the new Public Order Code of the Municipality of San Juan, approved last August, is the provision that the sale of alcohol is allowed until:
- 1:00 am from Sunday to Thursday.
- 2:00 am, Fridays and Saturdays.
- -If Monday is a holiday, Sunday night sales may be extended until 2:00 am the next day.
“With the entry of the new Public Order Code, we hope that there will be greater control,” said the mayor of San Juan, Miguel Romeroin an interview with The new day.
He added that “when we look at the large number of incidents that occur in San Juan, many are related to excess alcohol near places where alcohol is sold. This (the Code) will allow us, that by having this limitation, those businesses will not be doing that activity.”
Romero stressed that at that time the Municipal Police officers will not have to attend to incidents between drunk people, but rather they will be able to move to attend to criminal incidents.
The municipal executive clarified that “there is no closure order as such,” but rather the time in which alcoholic beverages can be sold is limited and “strong penalties are established for businesses that do not comply with that provision.”
“Of course, if you have a bar that is dedicated exclusively to that and you cannot sell alcohol, and that is your permission, you are going to be closing,” commented the official, who assured that they will be “vigilant” to the establishments that try to find a way to circumvent the new regulation.
In turn, the commissioner of the Municipal Police, Jose Juan Garciaassured that the new code “will not be a dead letter.”
“We have already formed a ready group that is already in place when the Public Order Code comes into force in November,” Garcia explained. “We will be attentive to the communities to apply what it establishes.”
He stated that “there will be a big difference because the code establishes until what time alcoholic beverages can be sold, what is called shouting, littering and there will be a diversity of situations that were grouped into a single code. Before, San Juan had eight codes for different areas and it was difficult. Now it is the same for everyone.”
“I assure you that, if it is a bar and it does not sell food, then the owner has to make the decision to close or stay there alone, because we are going to arrive and we are not going to allow him to continue operating in the sale of alcoholic beverages”Garcia said.
According to Garcia, patrolling to ensure compliance will include teams made up of a captain and two sergeants, who will have day and night shifts.
He explained that they will refer violations to the Legal Division and the Permits Division, which will be in charge of passing the complaints to the courts.
He explained that other types of violations by some businesses, such as Ocean Club, have been taken to court, but the problems have continued.
He said that the Fire Department had only authorized Ocean Club to operate a single floor, but it had two and last Friday the court determined to give it the opportunity to correct the fault with the permit.
“They were not supposed to operate until they were resolved, but they operated and what happened happened. There is a sign that says no firearms. They search, but those people answer to the owner. But, irresponsibly…, and I’m going to put it this way, the owner of the business knows that we have intervened several times and seized firearms, federal fugitives, and he continues in violation with the insistence of filling it, that that business goes beyond the permitted capacity. He puts the people who participate in activities in that place at risk.”
Romero and Garcia indicated that they will return to court to request the closure of that business.
“Here (in District) there has been intervention on several occasions. The State Police, the Municipal Police make arrests, firearms are seized, people are prosecuted, but the police cannot close. He has no authority. It goes to court and the court is the one that determines whether it is closed,” he stated.