FLUSHING, Queens (PIX11) — Patricio Castro said he was moved to tears, when he finally saw the PIX11 News story from 2020 marking the 20th anniversary of the Wendy’s fast-food massacre in Flushing, Queens.
The report featured his former co-worker, Jaquoine Johnson, who was only 18 when he was shot in the head during a robbery turned mass shooting on May 24, 2000.
“I remembered him like a young guy, with a smile on his face,” Castro recalled. “He liked to laugh.”
Several people connected to the case thought Castro had moved back to his native Ecuador. But he has spent much of his time in Queens, finally settling into a career as a jeweler and opening up his own shop in the Diamond District, CAVAS.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to stay here,” Castro told PIX11 News, but added, “something always brought me back to New York.”
When Castro reached out to us in the last week, shortly after seeing our 2020 report, he said he’d like to check in with Jaquoine Johnson.
So, we called Johnson’s mother at her apartment in Queens and asked if we could surprise her son, now 41.
Johnson lives at an NYCHA complex and immediately recognized Castro when he walked out of his building.
“I have no words, man,” Castro said, as he shook Johnson’s hand and pulled him into a hug. “It’s good to see you.”
Johnson responded, “23 years, a long, long time.”
The two men were working the grill together the night of the massacre and walked down a narrow staircase to the basement with the other employees, when their manager, Jean Auguste, summoned them for a ‘meeting.’
John Taylor, a former manager at the Flushing Wendy’s, was sticking the place up with his accomplice, Craig Godineaux.
The employees were told to lay face down on the floor, as their hands were duct-taped behind their backs, with the tape pulled around their mouths and eyes.
“I was praying and praying and kept praying,” Castro said.
Castro recalled passing out after the initial gunshot and woke up to find five co-workers dead. He and Jaquoine Johnson were the only survivors.
“I always imagined how you’ve been doing,” Castro told Johnson outside the apartment building.
Johnson responded that he’s been through a lot, beginning when he learned to walk and talk again after the shooting. He always dreamed of moving out of public housing.
“I wanted to make a movie,” Johnson said.
During the pandemic, Jaquoine Johnson wrote a book about his experiences, called “40th and Main.” The title is a reference to 40th Road and Main Street, where the Flushing Wendy’s was located.
“I have four kids,” Castro told Johnson, and Johnson responded, “Same,” referring to his own, four children.
Castro told Johnson he’s had emotional struggles over the years, “Sometimes I get crazy and then I get calm.”
Castro said he was fortunate to have a supportive wife who’s helped him through many ups and downs.
“You’ve just got to keep it positive,” Jaquoine Johnson said. “Don’t think about the past; think about the present.”
The two men exchanged phone numbers and promised to get together.
“I feel if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here,” Jaquoine Johnson said, referring to how Castro pulled him out of the refrigerator, before throwing Johnson over his shoulder and carrying him up the stairs when police arrived.
“I have no idea how I did it,” Castro responded.
The two men had not seen each other since a brief encounter at one of the murder trials.
When Johnson and Castro parted ways, they hugged again.
“I love you, my man,” Johnson said.
“I love you, too,” Castro replied.