The morning after Thanksgiving 2014, one man went to a 7-Eleven in North Bay Shore to get day-old doughnuts to give to homeless people, while another man went there to steal a car, a Suffolk prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.
By the time their chance encounter was over, the do-gooder was dead in the parking lot, crushed by his own car, which had been stolen by the other man, Assistant District Attorney Robert Biancavilla said during his opening statement at the trial of Edwin Gutierrez, 49, of Manhattan.
He is on trial on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Dionel Ramirez, 69, of North Amityville. Their paths crossed at the convenience store on Pine Aire Drive about 5:45 a.m., Biancavilla said. Ramirez went there often to get day-old baked goods for people who went to Pronto, a food pantry down the street.
“Edwin Gutierrez was there for a different reason,” Biancavilla said. “He was there to steal a car.”
About an hour before Ramirez arrived, Gutierrez tried to steal someone else’s car, which was left running in the parking lot, but Biancavilla said that car’s owner car yanked Gutierrez out of the driver’s seat. So Gutierrez waited for the next person to come along and leave a car running.
That was Ramirez, a cleaner at a movie theater and father of one.
When Ramirez saw what was happening, he ran out and stood in front of his Hyundai sedan and told Gutierrez to stop, Biancavilla said. Gutierrez hit the gas pedal instead.
“He ran him down with the very car that Dionel was using to bring the doughnuts to the homeless shelter up the street,” Biancavilla said.
The struggles over the two cars and their aftermath at the 7-Eleven were captured on security video, including Gutierrez jumping into Ramirez’s car, knocking him down with it and driving over him as he left the parking lot.
“He was dead in seconds,” Biancavilla said. The car crushed his head and chest, breaking every rib in his body, he said.
Defense attorney Martin Lorenzotti of Central Islip urged jurors in his brief opening statement to not jump to conclusions, even after seeing the video.
Biancavilla said Gutierrez had no intent to kill, but it didn’t matter. “He just as well could have gotten out of this car and put a bullet in his [Ramirez’s] head,” Biancavilla said.
Gutierrez is charged with two different theories of murder, neither of which asserts he intended to kill the victim. One accuses of him acting recklessly with depraved indifference to human life. The other of causing Ramirez’s death while committing a robbery.
The 7-Eleven’s owner, Azhar Chaudary, testified about the store’s video systems. During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Dena Rizopoulos, he said there are two systems with 27 cameras between them.
As Chaudary left the witness stand, state Supreme Court Justice William Condon told him, “Love your coffee,” prompting laughter from Chaudary, jurors and lawyers.