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Richmond Hill community gathers at emotional vigil for local man who was killed in shooting spree

Jul. 12, 2023 By Anthony Medina

Richmond Hill residents remain on edge after last weekend’s shooting spree that left a local 86-year-old man dead and three others injured.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. hosted a community vigil at the corner of 109th Street and Jamaica Avenue in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, in recognition of Hamod Ali Saeidi, who was shot and killed in the violent shooting spree that also left three others injured.

Melvin Rodriguez, a 33-year-old Richmond Hill resident and father, who was walking with his 8-year-old daughter, opposite of the corner of 109th Street and Jamaica Avenue, said he saw video of the shooting from a friend and told QNS he is now “a little scared.” Rodriguez worries about his family’s safety and said it’s the first time in seven years living in the area that he’s heard about such a senseless shooting.

The fear that comes from the July 8 shootings was especially felt from Rakesh Banerjee and Jasvir Singh, who manage the Zoom Zoom Wireless store, on 109-02 Jamaica Ave. They both witnessed the fatal shooting as it all happened and provided police with video footage that captured the incident.

“When he fell down, I thought it was real, because before I thought someone was joking,” Banerjee said.

The moment he know it was all too real was when he saw the blood pooling on the ground, according to Banerjee.

After seeing the shooting death first hand, Banerjee and Rakesh said they decided not to open the store on Sunday, the day after the incident. Being in business for 15 years, Banerjee also pointed out the issue with unregistered motorbikes, asking the city how it plans to track these criminals.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks during a vigil held in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The community gathered to honor the victims of a shooting spree in south Queens that took the life of 86-year-old Hamod Saeidi and left three other injured on July 8.Photo by Paul Frangipane.

During the vigil, Richards promised that incidents such as the shooting spree will not be normalized in Queens.

“Saturday was a day none of us would want to ever experience, but it was a day, as I said, that is all too familiar to us as Americans,” Richards said in his opening remarks. “Yet another community experienced the trauma in terror and what we need to call it is a mass shooting. This was a mass shooting.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks during a vigil held in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The community gathered to honor the victims of a shooting spree in south Queens that took the life of 86-year-old Hamod Saeidi and left three other injured on July 8.Photo by Paul Frangipane.

Saeidi was allegedly randomly targeted by the crazed gunman while walking along the busy Jamaica Avenue on Saturday, July 8. Saeidi immigrated from Yemen to the U.S. about 40 years ago. He fathered four sons and two daughters. He’s also survived by 30 grandchildren and 30 great grandchildren.

In the span of roughly 30 minutes, the gunman fired at multiple victims in Queens and Brooklyn while riding an unlicensed motor scooter, according to authorities.

The shooter, Thomas Abreu, 25, was caught by the NYPD officers from the 113th and 103rd Precincts within hours after his rampage. Police recovered a 9 mm handgun with an extended magazine in the alleged gunman’s possession. He was arraigned in Queens Criminal Court and criminally charged with murder on Monday, July 10.

“He deserved better than to die from a bullet right here in his own community. The three other victims the suspect shot all deserve better, as well,” Richards said.

Alongside Richards were fellow elected officials, community leaders and members of Community Board 9, who came out to show support for the family.

Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. gave his condolences to the family and encouraged a unified movement to eliminate gun violence.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo, Jr. speaks during a vigil held in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The community gathered to honor the victims of a shooting spree in south Queens that took the life of 86-year-old Hamod Saeidi and left three other injured on July 8.Photo by Paul Frangipane. 

“Gun violence teaches us one thing: that we are resilient; that by working together — regardless of our background, regardless of our differences, both politically, socially, ethnically — regardless of these differences, we can come together as one as a united voice and beat this crime beat this war on crime [and] win in the end, for our sake and our children’s sake,” Addabbo said.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams joined the roster of elected officials and local leaders in promoting more legislative action take place to eliminate gun violence, especially for Richmond Hill. In her remarks Adams said, “we need activation” from leaders in Washington, D.C., to better acknowledge a need for background checks and the elimination of ghost guns.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams speaks during a vigil held in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The community gathered to honor the victims of a shooting spree in south Queens that took the life of 86-year-old Hamod Saeidi and left three other injured on July 8.Photo by Paul Frangipane.

“We are missing activation to move in the way of ghosts guns [and] assault weapons, this horrible scourge that inflicts us and infects us, in every corner of our communities in this entire country [and] this entire nation,” Adams said.

Dr. Debbie Almontaser, a member of the board of directors for the Yemeni American Merchants Association, also shared remarks. While holding back tears, she noted how she recently attended a funeral of a Staten Island man of similar standing to Saeidi, who was killed in senseless violence.

“How many more people do we have to lose in New York City to gun violence to say enough is enough?” Almontaser asked the crowed. “I, like many of you, am tired of being tired of attending funerals and vigils and rallies on gun violence. Something has to change and today, my brothers and sisters, we are the change that we seek to find.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams mirrored what speakers said during the evening vigil, but specifically pointed to National Rifle Association’s involvement with what Williams described as an “demonic obsession with guns.”

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams speaks during a vigil held in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The community gathered to honor the victims of a shooting spree in south Queens that took the life of 86-year-old Hamod Saeidi and left three other injured on July 8.Photo by Paul Frangipane.

“The NRA is doing the devil’s work,” Williams said, receiving applause from the crowd.

Main Saeidi, son of Hamod Ali Saeidi, spoke directly about his father’s legacy and how his death is representative of a larger safety issue in the city. He reinforced his father’s life was more than that of a family man, but as a well-respected community member.

Main Saeidi, son of Hamod Ali Saeidi speaks during a vigil held in Richmond Hill on Tuesday, July 11, 2023. The community gathered to honor the victims of a shooting spree in south Queens that took the life of 86-year-old Saeidi and left three other injured on July 8.Photo by Paul Frangipane.

“A good man, a good man’s life, was taken away and I hope it’s a reason for another to live. We need to work together to stop gun violence and support the police to fight. Is the family blaming the police for this? Because he took the bike all the way from Brooklyn and came all the way here? No, we do not. Because we know they’re doing their best. But they need their hands to be untied. They need more powers to do their job and I know they can do the job to stop this from happening again.”

The Saeidi family is demanding justice for other victims of the mass shooting and urges legislators in Albany to pass laws to stop gun violence and allow police to do their jobs. The family held up Hamod’s death certificate before the vigils’ end, telling the public how he was expected to go on vacation before his untimely end.

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