An East Patchogue man — unable to reach his son on the phone — said he drove home from work early Tuesday to find the high school student shot dead outside their house.
Jose Antonio Sanchez, 45, had been calling his son, Emilio Sanchez Maldonado, 17, for several hours and got no response, so he left work just after 3 a.m. to look for the teen.
When he got home, Sanchez said, he found his son lying on the ground just outside a wooden gate, next to the teenager's bicycle.
“He went to pick [Maldonado] up and his hands and chest were covered in blood,” said Sanchez's nephew, Adonay Cruz, also 17, who acted as his uncle's Spanish-language interpreter.
An official with the Suffolk medical examiner pronounced Maldonado dead at the scene after officers received a 911 call at 3:32 a.m. about a possible gunshot victim outside the residence, police said. As of Tuesday night, Suffolk police had released few details of the shooting including how many shooters may have been involved, whether bullet casings were recovered at the scene, or what part of Maldonado's body was hit by gunfire.
Sanchez said he ran from the side of the house to the front door and rang his landlord’s bell.
“He was hysterical. He just kept saying 'my son, my son. My son’s dead,' ” said the landlord, Anairis Benavides, 29.
Four hours earlier, at about 11:30 p.m., she heard what at first sounded like fireworks outside as she and her husband watched a movie, Benavides said.
“Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop,” she said. “That was it.”
Benavides said she didn't hear voices of people talking or a vehicle speeding off.
She stayed inside instead of searching for the source of the noise, Benavides said, because she did not feel safe. Neither Benavides nor her husband called police immediately, she said.
Maldonado came to the United States from El Salvador in 2014, joining his father, Cruz said.
In the time Sanchez and his son lived in Benavides' home on a separate floor, she said they had never caused her any trouble. Sanchez, she said, is a hard worker who always paid the rent on time. The boy, Benavides said, was quiet.
“As far as I know, he was a good kid,” she said.
Maldonado, who would have been a senior at Bellport High School in the fall, was supposed to start working Tuesday at Give & Go in Shirley, a manufacturer of baked goods that supplies retailers and the food service industry with muffins and other products, his family said.
Instead, the teen’s body will be flown back to El Salvador for burial, his family said. The boy's mother and younger sister, who live in El Salvador, are devastated, relatives said.
Friends and family of Maldonado are raising money, via GoFundMe, to fly his body to the Central American country and pay for funeral expenses. The GoFundMe page is "Emilio Funeral."
“All I want is justice for my son,” his father said. “He was just a kid. He was just a little boy.”