Victim's son testifies as trial begins
Dennis Caceres maintained his composure as he told a courtroom how he and his father were stalked on their Huntington Station street by three gunmen who shot his father when he told them he had no money.
His voice dropped to a whisper when he testified before state Supreme Court Justice Mark Cohen about an ambulance taking his father, Geremias Caceres, 39, from the scene on Jan. 24, 2010. But he could hold back the tears no longer when Assistant District Attorney Glenn Kurtzrock showed him a picture of the crime scene. On the ground were the bananas they had just bought, and his father's umbrella.
Dennis Caceres, now 19, testified on the first day of the trial of Ralph Guerrier, 26, charged with second-degree murder. A co-defendant, Gni Brown, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges. The third gunman was never caught.
Dennis Caceres said he and his father dropped the family car off at KFC on Jericho Turnpike, so his father's brother, Adonias, could come home from work safely when his shift ended at 2 a.m. About halfway home on the 10-minute walk, Dennis Caceres said, he and his father stopped at La Casa Grande bodega to get the bananas and some phone cards.
The three men ran up to them when they were in front of their next-door neighbor's house on Tenth Avenue, he said. All had guns and had covered their faces with hoodies and bandannas, he said. They told father and son to get on the ground.
Dennis did. His father didn't, and he offered them his cell phone because he had no money, he said.
"That's when I heard -- that's when they fired," Caceres said. As the men ran, Caceres said he used his father's cell phone to call 911.
Earlier, jurors listened to an excruciating recording of that call, with Geremias Caceres screaming and groaning in agony as he lay dying in the street.
The recording appeared to shock several jurors, and Caceres' wife fled the courtroom in tears when she heard it. Even Tara Allen, the 911 operator who took the call and testified about it, was in tears on the witness stand as she listened to herself try to help Caceres.
"He was murdered in cold blood, with absolutely no provocation and no reason," Kurtzrock said Tuesday during his opening statement.
Kurtzrock said the fatal shot ripped through Caceres' lung, stomach and liver. "An hour later, he was dead -- killed in front of his own home, his own son," Kurtzrock said.
Defense attorney Mary Elizabeth Abbate of North Babylon said Caceres' death was awful, but she said no one at the scene identified her client. And she told jurors to be skeptical of any incriminating statements Guerrier gave implicating himself, noting that he was in police custody for 23 hours before he did so.
The first officer on the scene, Harry Jos, described finding Caceres in a fetal position on the street. After he was taken away by an ambulance, Jos spotted a bullet on the ground where Caceres had been.