Family Haunted by Double Tragedies at Hands of Police

Ana Cuevas, who lost her son Reynaldo to a police shooting, with son Joel. (Photo by Victor Matos/El Diario-La Prensa)

The Cuevas family has not found a moment of solace in the legal path they have taken after experiencing two terrible tragedies at the hands of police.

First it was Reynaldo Cuevas, 20, who died after a police officer shot him by mistake while trying to prevent a robbery at a Bronx bodega in September 2012.

Then it was Reynaldo’s cousin Leonel Cuevas, 17, who was allegedly run over by a police car one month later while riding a dirt bike along with his friend, also in the Bronx. He has sustained permanent brain damage as a result.

In the first case, the family learned last week that Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson decided not to press charges against the officer the shot Reynaldo, Ramysh Bangali.

On March 4, the family and their lawyer Sanford Rubenstein began the process of filing a $25 million civil suit against the officer and the City of New York.

“I want justice to be done and for that police officer to be dismissed from the NYPD,” said Ana Cuevas, Reynaldo’s mother.

Reynaldo Cuevas, with daughter Jamie, died after a cop shot him by mistake during a robbery at the Bronx bodega. (Photo from the Cuevas family via El Diario-La Prensa)

Reynaldo is survived by his daughter Jamie, 4, who lives in the Dominican Republic. The family said she depended on her father’s income for her education and other basic needs.

“I know they can’t give me my son back, but at the very least I want them to compensate us so I can give his young daughter an education, which is what Reynaldo wanted,” stressed the mother.

Officer Bangali opened fire on Reynaldo on September 7, 2012 after mistaking him for one of the robbers at a bodega where Cuevas worked in the neighborhood of Morrisania.

The suspects will be prosecuted, but that isn’t enough for Joel Cuevas, Reynaldo’s brother.

“The thieves were the ones who committed the crime, but the police officer was the one who took out his gun and shot my brother, and they have to make him take responsibility for it,” he said.

According to Rubenstein, the NYPD is still investigating the incident internally.

Leonel Cuevas has permanent brain damage as a result of a motorcycle accident. (File photo from El Diario-La Prensa)

In Leonel’s case, Rubenstein asked the Bronx district attorney’s office to open a criminal investigation into Sabrina Alicea, the officer who was driving the police car. He is still waiting for a response.

“I want the full weight of the law to fall on that woman,” Ramona Cuevas, Leonel’s mother, said two months later. “I don’t want any human being to experience what I’m going through right now. My heart is broken and I’ve been totally devastated since my son died.”

The incident happened on October 27, 2012, when Leonel was riding as a passenger on the back of his friend’s dirt bike along Walton Avenue. According to the police report, the motorcycle was trying to speed ahead of the police car.

The official version stated that after the bike slightly collided with the police car, the dirt bike driver, Reynaldo’s friend, lost control and crashed into a second car that was double-parked. However, an anonymous witness who got in touch with the family asserted that the police car purposefully rammed the motorcycle from behind, and, furthermore, it ran over Reynaldo’s friend.

Joel Cuevas said that his cousin is currently in rehab after having been paralyzed in the hospital for a few months, and that he will suffer permanent brain damage.

“We feel shattered because it seems like police officers never get prosecuted, and that’s not fair,” said an anguished Joel. “We want justice for my brother and my cousin.”

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