In the early hours of Monday, tragedy unfolded outside a Bronx fast-food restaurant, where a 23-year-old man known as Orlando, who often panhandled in the area, was brutally stabbed to death. The incident occurred around 2:10 a.m. outside Kennedy Fried Chicken on Willis Ave. near E. 139th St. in Mott Haven.
Reports from the police indicate that the victim sustained multiple stab wounds to the upper body. Orlando, a familiar figure near the restaurant during closing time, hoped that workers would offer him unsold leftovers. According to a friend and local resident, Henry Johnson, “He’s a good kid. He didn’t deserve that s**t. You can’t even go one block outside your house without something happening.”
Johnson shared that Orlando often spoke slowly and would ask people for change, food, and cigarettes. Despite picking up some bad habits during his time in shelters, he was remembered as a good-hearted individual.
According to his cousin Serea Lee, Orlando’s life took a difficult turn in 2020 when he encountered difficulties and turned “detached” after ingesting a substance that permanently altered his mental state in the wake of his grandmother’s COVID death.
Surveillance footage captured moments before and after the clash that led to Orlando’s tragic demise. In one video, a man wearing jeans, a black jacket, and a hoodie approached Orlando, who was standing outside the restaurant. After a brief exchange of words, both men threw up their hands, with Orlando in constant retreat. A subsequent video showed the retreat continuing along a rain-slicked street before the men exchanged blows at the intersection of Willis and E. 139th St.
The final video depicted Orlando stumbling back to the restaurant, where he collapsed face down on the sidewalk. Emergency services rushed him to Lincoln Hospital, where he later succumbed to his injuries. The victim’s last name was not immediately clear, as he went by several names, according to his cousin.
Neighbors described Orlando as being non-confrontational. Jose Torres remarked, “If you cussed him out, he would just walk away. He was a nice kid. Didn’t bother nobody.” Lee echoed this sentiment, stating, “He was always very thankful for what he could get and wasn’t mad if he couldn’t get anything at all. He was the type to walk away from a confrontation.”
In a poignant revelation, Lee shared that Orlando had interests in drawing and anime, indicating a potential career path that circumstances did not allow him to pursue fully. She emphasized the importance of mental health support, expressing that with the right help, Orlando could have reached his potential. Lee attributed her cousin’s untimely death to the dangerous neighborhood, specifically pointing to the NYPD’s 40th precinct, which has witnessed an 8.3% increase in major crimes this year.
“In this area, it’s very gang-affiliated. This is just a bad area,” she said. “He just wasn’t the person to be involved in this; he wasn’t a member of a gang. He was a good person.”
As the investigation unfolds, there have been no immediate arrests in connection to Orlando’s tragic slaying. The incident serves as a stark reminder of the challenges faced in communities dealing with rising crime rates and underscores the importance of addressing mental health issues in society.