“This Lady Was Brave, and She Paid For It With Her Life”
Over the past two years, Philadelphia anti-crime activist Greg Bucceroni would occasionally drop into the Caribe Mini Market at 3300 Mutter St. in Kensington—just down the street from his Crime Victim Services offices—to grab a soda or a candy bar and clear the drug dealers away from the sidewalk. He’d talk to clerk Reyna Aguirre-Alonso, whom he affectionately called “mamita,” about the violence on the block, where gunshots ring out daily and heroin, crack, pills and more are sold with impunity.
“She was upset that these guys were outside her store 24/7 smoking blunts and selling drugs,” says Bucceroni, 48. “She said business was dropping because customers were afraid to come into the store with these guys hanging out front.”
Less than a month ago, Bucceroni came by with some information about the city’s “See Something, Say Something” program, and encouraged Aguirre-Alonso to keep calling 911 to report things she saw and to help get rid of the dealers. And just last week, on MLK Day, Bucceroni says he and Aguirre-Alonso commiserated over the Jan. 10 triple-homicide in Juniata when Axel Barreto reportedly opened fire on a carful of teens who had been threatening his stepsons.
“She said she wasn’t going to let anything like that happen over here,” says Bucceroni. “When Mayor Nutter said to take back your neighborhood, she was inspired by that. She tried to do something about it. And now she’s dead.”
Police say that on Monday night, Aguirre-Alonso—a 29-year-old Mexican immigrant who also went by the name Rosemary Fernandez-Rivera—was killed when a gunman in a hoodie and ski mask entered the corner market just before 8 p.m., shot her four times in the torso, then fled. Some of Aguirre-Alonso’s relatives believe she was targeted because she had been cooperating with police after witnessing the murder of Luis Omar Chevere, 22, outside her store in November. Bucceroni believes that her death was also payback for the handful of dealers whom she ID’d for police and were later arrested, and for being so vocal about trying to clean up her corner.
“She was complaining to some of the other business owners, she was telling people on the street, ‘Don’t just let them stand there, call the cops,’” says Bucceroni. “She got into arguments with some of [the dealers]. I told her over and over to be careful. That’s the dangers of snitching. Unfortunately, if you tell police and they get one or two of them, there’s still a bunch of them left and they’re all extremely violent. I specifically train people how to report violence without having anyone trace it back to you.”
Bucceroni’s angry that the city “didn’t have [Aguirre-Alonso's] back” after her ongoing cooperation with the PPD, saying it only reinforces the widespread belief on the streets that snitches get stitches, or worse. “All the neighbors are scared now,” he says. “They’re saying, ‘This lady stood up and look what happened to her.’”
A source with extensive knowledge of the Kensington drug trade tells PW that the gang of dealers who’ve long operated in front of the Caribe Mini Market used to be headed up by 22-year-old Antonio Rodriguez—the alleged “Kensington Strangler,” captured by police a year ago. Following his arrest, another member of his crew filled the void, and drug sales continued uninterrupted.
Bucceroni suspects that once PPD and media attention over Aguirre-Alonso’s murder dies down, it’ll be back to business as usual for the dealers on the block. So he’s demanding that the city step in and squash the corner drug trade for good. “We’re trying to get the cops to come in and stay there for a month, and get the DA’s Office to find out what addresses are involved in these drug sales and get them to seize and shut down those properties [owned or used by dealers],” he says.
“This lady was brave, and she paid for it with her life,” says Bucceroni. “The city needs to look out for the people who are helping them.”