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Bodega adds safety measures to deter crime after shooting

Amauris Torres, 24, grieves over the death of his father Juan Torres, who was shot while working at a Laurelton Deli.
TimesLedger Newspapers

A year and a half after Shawn Forde fatally shot Juan Torres during a robbery at the Lucky Deli, the Laurelton bodega has followed some of the advice offered in the wake of the violence to make itself safer.

Frances Torres, sister-in-law of the slain deli worker, said the store has installed more cameras and there are more employees working during the night-time hours.

The windows, though, are still full of miscellaneous items for sale and a curtain of lottery tickets hangs behind the counter blocking the view from the street.

And according to Frances Torres, there is no gun in the store.

“I don’t touch those things,” she said.

Forde, 29, pleaded guilty last week to the October 2010 shooting death of Juan Torres, who came to the aid of his brother, Felix, when Forde robbed him at gunpoint and faces 15 years in prison, according to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown.

According to the criminal complaint, Forde entered the deli, at 220-26 Merrick Blvd., just before 10 p.m. Oct. 23, 2010. He grabbed Felix Torres, Frances’ husband, brandishing a .45-caliber pistol and slammed the man’s head on the counter demanding money, Brown said.

After Felix Torres handed Forde money from the register, Juan Torres, 54, came running out of the back of the store and was fatally shot in the head by Forde, who quickly fled the scene, according to Brown.

When a family member was shown a photo of Forde, she identified him as a regular customer of the Lucky Deli, and he was later picked out of a police line-up, the NYPD said.

The store had been the site of other armed robberies, and at the time of the killing City Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton) said the holdups had become an epidemic that no one should take lightly.

He advised deli owners to clear their windows so the inside of their stores would be open for viewing by pedestrians outside.

The Torreses lost another brother to an armed robbery when he was working at a Ridgewood deli more than 10 years earlier, and Ramon Murphy, president of the Bodega Association of the United States, called for gun permits to be issued to deli owners to help them defend themselves.

Frances Torres said she does not feel appreciably more or less safe working at the deli now as compared to in the past, and the best safety precaution she can take is to be as vigilant as possible.

“Just be alert. Pay attention to who’s coming and going outside,” she said.

Forde, of 137-50 229th St. in Laurelton, pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter before Queens Supreme Court Justice Richard Buchter, who indicated that he would sentence him to 15 years in state prison May 1, Brown said.

“The defendant has admitted that his violent actions were responsible for the untimely death of a hardworking father and store owner,” Brown said. “As such, the defendant has proven himself unfit for society, and the prison term to be imposed is more than justified.”

Frances Torres, though, said she felt the sentence was not strict enough.

“One year or 100 years is not going to bring him back,” she said. “He’ll get out when he’s 45. He’ll still be a very young man. It’s not enough time.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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