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FLUSHING, Queens — The brother of a man killed in the Wendy’s massacre 20 years ago fought back tears, as he recently held a FaceTime reunion with one of two survivors of the shooting.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Benjamin Nazario, 65, wore a surgical mask and latex gloves outside his Flushing apartment as he prepared for the video call with shooting survivor Jaquione Johnson, 38, who was sitting in his own Queens apartment.

“Oh my God,” Nazario cried, when he saw Johnson’s face appear on the iPhone screen.

Nazario tapped his chest near his heart.

“It’s been a long time,” he said to Johnson, his voice choked with emotion. “I always wanted to see you again.”

The two men had not spoken to each other in 20 years.
“What’s going on, Ben,” Johnson responded, with a grin, from his apartment.

Nazario used to visit his brother, Ramon — Johnson’s co-worker at the Main Street Wendy’s in Flushing — when the fast-food crew was cleaning up for the night.

Johnson was only 18 at the time, while Ramon Nazario, 44, was often the oldest employee on duty.

“After they finished cleaning, they would sit down and talk with me,” Benjamin Nazario told PIX11 earlier this year. “We used to sit, joke around, and talk … All of them, honestly, they’re still in my heart.”

On May 24, 2000, two men walked into the Wendy’s near 40th Avenue and Main Street, five minutes before its 11 p.m. closing time.

They ordered food and sat at separate tables. They were planning to rob the place.

John Taylor, a squat 36-year-old man, was a former assistant manager at the Wendy’s.

According to his accomplice, Craig Godineaux, Taylor harbored deep resentment toward Wendy’s manager Jean Auguste, 27, who was on duty the night of the massacre.

Taylor went with Auguste to the basement and ordered him to summon six other employees downstairs for a meeting.

The workers dutifully went downstairs, where they were tied up and told to kneel on the floor of the basement’s freezer.

Godineaux put a plastic bag over each employee’s head, as Taylor instructed.

Taylor shot the first three workers in the head, according to Johnson, who said he saw everything that happened with his right eye.

Then Taylor passed the gun to Godineaux, telling his imposing, 6-foot-5 accomplice to “finish it.”

Johnson later testified in court he was the last of the seven employees to be shot execution-style. The bullet traveled between the two lobes of Johnson’s brain, through his nasal cavity, and then out of his mouth.

After a couple of months in rehab in the late spring of 2000, Johnson returned to his mother’s home.

Johnson had been carried out of the freezer by the second survivor, Patrick Castro, who had sustained a bullet graze to his cheek. Castro returned to his native Ecuador not long after the shooting.

The five other employees, Jeremy Mele, 18; Anita Smith, 22; Jean Auguste, 27; Ali Ibadat, 42; and Ramon Nazario, 44, either died at the scene or were pronounced dead at Booth Memorial Hospital in Flushing.

Ibadat used to send money home to his family in Pakistan every week.

Mele had plans to join the U.S. military.

Smith wanted to attend college, so she could teach children with autism.

Ramon Nazario, who was born in Puerto Rico, left behind a daughter and toddler son.

While talking to Johnson on FaceTime, Benjamin Nazario remained emotional: “This is the first time we have seen each other in 20 years. In court, we couldn’t get together.”

“He went through a lot; he looks great,” Nazario added. “We used to walk home together, all of us.”

The Wendy’s where the shooting took place was converted into a mini shopping mall, but 40-12 Main St. has been closed during the pandemic.

Benjamin Nazario doesn’t go near the address.

“When I walk there (Main Street), I go to the other side of the street,” he said. “I try to stay away.”