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Police: Man shot dead in Hempstead, third homicide in village this week

Victor Benitez, seen here in an undated photo,

Victor Benitez, seen here in an undated photo, was fatally shot outside the Clinton Deli and Grocery on Clinton Street, near Wellington Street, in the Village of Hempstead early in the morning on Saturday, July 4, 2015, police said. Credit: Courtesy Photo

A man leaving a Hempstead deli Saturday was shot and pronounced dead at the scene, the third homicide of the week in the village, authorities said.

Victor Benitez, 28, a local resident, was found about 4:40 a.m. Saturday on Clinton Street near Wellington Street, police said. Surveillance footage showed a busy deli and street at the time.

"He stepped out of the deli and received a gunshot wound to the chest," Hempstead Police Lt. Mark Kirichenko said. "A police car was patrolling and was flagged down."

Hempstead police said two casings were found nearby, and it was unclear whether the victim was the intended target. Authorities and his family confirmed he was the victim.

Surveillance footage from the Clinton Deli and Grocery shows the victim was outside talking to another man, who at one point appeared to look in the direction where the shot may have come from.

A second later, the victim clutched his chest and collapsed into the deli's doorway, the video shows. Moments after, he stumbled backward as someone inside opened the door to get out. He sat on the sidewalk, leaning against the storefront.

He had walked out of the store at a time when the business had about 20 customers, many from nearby bars that just closed, said deli owner José Diaz, who heard nothing unusual beforehand.

"All of a sudden somebody is yelling, 'Somebody is dead outside,' " Diaz said. "I went out and he was leaning against the wall, bleeding. He was trying to get inside but couldn't make it."

Nassau police declined to discuss the video.

The shooting took away the father of a boy, 9, and a girl, 5, who live with their mother and looked forward to weekends when Benitez took them out, the victim's sister said.

"His kids were his life," Yesenia Benitez, 21, said from the doorway of the village apartment where he grew up. "He always talked about them."

Now, the children's aunt said, "We don't know how to tell them."

Tears welled up in of José Benitez's eyes as he spoke of a son who had no enemies.

"I can't understand how this could happen to him," said Benitez, 55. "Everyone liked him. He had so many friendships."

The sister said he was at the deli to get food on his way to one of his two jobs.

He provided security for a bar, but his main job was patrolling outpatient facilities for the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System as a field supervisor for U.S. Security Associates in Hicksville.

His boss, Bobby Davis, said he'll miss the six-year employee, who was extremely helpful, from giving strangers rides to lifting a man into a wheelchair.

"You couldn't have met a better person," Davis said. "He wouldn't hurt a fly."

Homicide detectives and Hempstead officers canvassed the area Saturday for surveillance video and witnesses.

It was the third shooting in five days and the fourth homicide in two weeks.

On June 20, Alan R. Espinoza, 25, slit the throat of his girlfriend Neyvin Espinal, 24, after arguing in their apartment, police said. He later pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder.

Then Tuesday, Jonathan Wade, 55, was shot as he drove past his mother's properties on Albemarle Avenue and he crashed into bleachers at a middle school sport field, injuring three boys, police said.

Just before 11 p.m. Friday, a man, 30, was shot in the head on Chase Street, where shell casings were found, and after getting into a car, he crashed into parked car, then a house less than half mile away.

No evidence ties the shootings so far, Hempstead police said. No arrests have been made.

Kirichenko said police are doing what they can to safeguard the community: "Most of our violent crimes are down. Sometimes these things happen in spurts."

Police ask anyone with information about the shootings to call Crime Stoppers at 800-244-TIPS (8477).

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