Bronx mom relives anguish of watching son die, as NYPD releases suspect’s photo

Kemel Smith - Jayquan Lewis

Cops are searching for Kemel Smith (left) the alleged gunman who shot and killed Jayquan Lewis (right) in a Bronx deli on Aug. 13, 2021 (NYPD | Family photo)

FORDHAM MANOR, the Bronx —  A grieving Bronx mom begged for the public’s help Friday in finding the just-identified suspect in the August deli murder of her 21-year-old son.

Detectives have been searching for the suspect, Kemel Smith, for two months now, but just released his photo on Thursday.

Marisol Sanchez told PIX11 News she was taking a shower on the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 13, when her son, Jayquan Lewis, slightly opened the bathroom door and asked if she wanted anything from the deli across the street.

“I said ‘Hurry up and come back,'” Sanchez remembered, “‘because I don’t want you outside.'”

The mother’s middle child was getting ready to start nursing classes, after previously doing background acting work in shows like “Law and Order.”  

The Bronx was experiencing a summer of bad gun violence.

The mother recalled after her son closed the bathroom door, he opened it back up.

“He was like ‘Mommy, I love you,'” Marisol Sanchez recounted, as she started to sob.  “And I said, ‘I love you, too.'”

Minutes later, Sanchez said she received a frantic call from her husband that their son, known as “JJ,” had been shot across the street in the BH Gourmet Deli on Bainbridge Avenue.

“I just ran down and I saw them doing CPR on him,” the mother said, as she remembered seeing her stricken son on the floor of the deli.

“I begged the cops to let me in, so I could talk to him, so he could stay with me,” the mother said, “but they wouldn’t let me in.”

“I wanted him to know I was there,” the mother cried.

Marisol Sanchez then watched as paramedics took her son to the ambulance on a stretcher.

“I saw the bullet wounds on his chest; it looked like he was sleeping,” Sanchez said, “He still had his ear buds on.”

Jayquan Lewis was later pronounced dead at St. Barnabas Hospital.

“They told me he passed away, and I just fell to the ground,” the mother said.

Sanchez said NYPD Detectives notified her on Wednesday they would be releasing the name of the suspect and his photo. 

A law enforcement source told PIX11 News Kemel Smith is a Jamaican national who was in the United States illegally.  The source said Smith is a known drug dealer who sold crack and marijuana.

Surveillance video of the shooting showed Jayquan Lewis at the deli counter, waiting to buy a bottle of water, until a gunman at the rear of the store sprinted across the shop and started firing multiple times at Lewis.

The young man fell to the side of the counter and the shooter fled.

The deli workers knew both victim Jayquan Lewis and suspect Kemel Smith as frequent customers at the store, but never witnessed any dispute between them, the law enforcement source told PIX11 News.

Now, one man is on the lam and Jayquan Lewis is dead, way before his time.

“He was just starting his life,” his mother said.  

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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