Francisco Pinsón-Martínez should have been sleeping at 9 p.m. last Thursday. He held down two jobs, so he needed a few hours’ rest after his shift at a mobile phone store in Hamilton Heights before he had to show up at the Clean Action Laundromat by midnight.
José Aguirre, Pinsón’s cousin and roommate, happened to be washing his own clothes at Clean Action that night. Aguirre thought it strange that Pinsón hadn’t arrived home for his nap and mentioned his absence to Omar Matos, who worked the day shift at the laundromat.
Only when his replacement didn’t arrive at midnight did Matos call Pinsón himself.
“I wanted to go home,” Matos said. “And that was 12:20. Then 12:30 came, and then 12:40, and I kept calling him all night long. It would ring, and he wouldn’t pick up. And of course he was never going to pick up. He was dead.”
At about 8, Pinsón, 30, had left the Metro PCS store on Broadway, just around the corner from his apartment building. After locking up, he walked two doors to 3544 Broadway, where the business stored its cash in a third floor office–and where someone bashed him over the head.
By the time police were called to the scene at 1 p.m. Friday, Pinsón had died from trauma to the head, according to a police report on Saturday. Police also released photos of two unidentified suspects, describing them as heavyset Hispanic or black men.
“We have to wait 15 days until we can bury him, since he was hit in the head many times,” said Pinsón’s second cousin, Carmen Simón, who was making arrangements to return his body to Mexico. “The guy’s mom is dying to see her son,” she said.
While Pinsón had no immediate family in the United States, he had been here for 16 years, working tirelessly to support his parents and younger siblings in Xalpatlahuac, a village in the mountainous province of Guerrero, said many friends and cousins, all interviewed in Spanish. His father was very sick, making Pinsón the primary breadwinner.
People who knew Pinsón painted the picture of a courteous, hardworking man.
“He was such a good person,” said Edi Ponce, 27, Pinsón’s next door neighbor. “The type of guy who only lives to work and to help his family.”
“Back when I used to work, he would always bring me a little coffee or something,” said María Villar, 20, another cousin. “The guy was so quiet. He didn’t drink. He didn’t smoke.”
Throughout the weekend, a memorial formed on the stairs of the building where Pinsón was murdered. Following Mexican tradition, neighbors left food, such as oranges and tamales, roses, candles depicting the Virgin Mary and sympathy notes. One note, using Pinson’s nickname, said, “Rest in Peace, Frankie.”
While passersby on Broadway stopped to offer condolences and leave small change, Simón and other relatives were hoping to raise $10,000 to ship Pinsón’s body home to his parents.
Magdalena Martínez, Pinsón’s mother, hadn’t seen her son in 16 years and hadn’t heard about his murder until Villar called with the news. Martínez cried, “Why my son? Why my son?” Relating this exchange in Pinsón’s apartment on West 146th Street, Villar appeared red-eyed herself.
Police didn’t respond to requests for further information on the investigation. But many neighbors believed robbery to be the motive. Grand larceny has been rising in the 30th Precinct over the last year, and several people stopping by the memorial mentioned similar incidents nearby.
On September 8, Francine Bailey-Hooks, a health worker, was bringing her laptop to Clear Exclusive Retailer, a repair center next door to the building where Pinsón was murdered. As she prepared to get off the M19, an older bus without security cameras, a man stole her laptop at gunpoint.
When she reported the theft to the 30th Precinct, Bailey-Hooks said, “The officer said to me, ‘There’s been a rash of robberies at gunpoint.’ And you don’t let the public know to be careful?”
Robbers attacked Paulino Ramoán, 38, with a drill while he was working in the basement of a store on West 127th Street, another area without security cameras. “The owner didn’t want anything to do with it,” Ramoán said.
In Pinsón’s case, friends and family wondered why the Metro PCS staff was so slow to notice and contact the police about the attack, which happened Thursday evening but wasn’t reported until Friday afternoon.
Metro PCS employees had told the family that Pinsón closed the store and left, Simón said. “Why didn’t they go check in the morning? Why only in the afternoon? If it’s an office, they should be able to come and go,” Simón said. “Maybe if they had gone inside in the morning, they would have found him alive.”
While the store is independently owned and operated, its parent company, Metro PCS Wireless, Inc., released a statement clarifying that Pinsón wasn’t an employee of the corporation and encouraging the Hamilton Heights dealership to cooperate with the police.
Employees at the Metro PCS store refused to comment. But one employee, nicknamed El Flaquito (Skinny Guy) stopped by the laundromat Friday evening and told Matos he had personally found Pinsón’s body in the third floor office earlier that day. Matos said El Flaquito told him he had alerted the police.
Family members also demanded that the store owner, who was out of town, cover some of the funeral shipping costs, since Pinsón was vulnerable to robbery while handling the shop’s money.
“He has something to do with all of this, said Ramoán, from the same village as Pinsón. “It’s not a good idea that the owner makes him bring the money up without protection.”