THE BRONX — It was the moment the Trinitarios safe house was suddenly anything but.
A Paterson, N.J. police sergeant and officer revealed in a Bronx courtroom Thursday what happened during their raid of the gang hideout where six suspects in the murder of “Junior” were hunkered down. They described how one suspect leapt out a window when cops arrived, and another hid behind a fridge — his exposed arm giving him away.
Sergeant Rafael Hernandez of the Paterson Police Department testified that after getting a tip, he arrived with other cops at the home located at 260 E. 24 St. in Paterson at 1:46 p.m. that Sunday afternoon, June 24, four days after the shocking stabbing death of the boy outside a Bronx bodega.
Already, Hernandez could see people through the windows, he said.
“We approached the front door and then someone jumped out the first-floor window,” Hernandez testified. “I could see the tattoo on his neck. He landed on the sidewalk in front of the house and ran to the rear of the house.”
Hernandez later identified the suspect as Jose Tavarez, who had a tattoo with the inscription “1-5-7” etched on his neck. 1-5-7 means Trinitario in good standing.
Hernandez said he went up the rear stairs to the second floor of the house, where Tavarez “was changing his clothes.”
Tavarez was later charged with second-degree murder in New York for his alleged role in the chase of 15-year-old Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz. At least four others in the Paterson house were identified as the Junior stabbing suspects.
Prosecutor Morgan Dolan asked Hernandez about the defendants in the courtroom.
“Were any of these five individuals present,” Dolan asked, referring to the New Jersey house.
“Yes,” Sergeant Hernandez replied.
During his testimony, Hernandez testified Jonaiki Martinez Estrella, Jose Muniz, Manuel Rivera and Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago were staying at the Paterson house when police arrived.
He couldn’t be sure about the fifth suspect at the defense table, Elvin Garcia.
Testimony earlier this week indicated Garcia had traveled to his Uncle’s house in Philadelphia for two days, shortly after the murder, and was asked to come to a New York City precinct, before he was formally arrested for murder in the first degree.
Hernandez said nine or 10 people were in the Paterson house, and six were taken into custody.
When another witness, Paterson Police Officer Selba Perez, testified, she said she found suspect Antonio Rodriguez Hernandez Santiago — shirtless — in the kitchen.
“He was hidden behind the refrigerator,” she said. “He was physically behind the refrigerator, where you could only see part of his arm hanging out.”
“I recognized him from the photos,” Perez told the jury.
The NYPD had emailed “wanted” flyers of the “Junior” suspects to the Paterson police earlier that day.
She said she and her police colleagues had moved through the house yelling, “Paterson police! Everyone put your hands up! Don’t move.”
Perez said she spoke to Santiago in English and Spanish, that he wasn’t resistant, and she eventually took him by the arm into police custody.
PIX11’s Mary Murphy gives an update on Thursday’s testimony:AlertMe