The family of Dante Quinones, the Hempstead teenager gunned down in his hometown this week, forgave the teen’s killer and made an emotional appeal for anyone with information to come forward during an appearance with community activists Friday.
The teen’s grief-stricken mother, Chrissie Quinones, wearing a blue jacket and dark sunglasses, stood stoically as speakers condemned violence in the community and shouted pleas of justice on behalf of her son.
“We’re begging with the community to get rid of this misnomer of ‘I can’t snitch,’ this snitching syndrome, we gotta get rid of it in our community,” Corey Pegues of the Long Island Law Enforcement Alliance told reporters and a crowd of onlookers at the scene where Quinones was shot.
Quinones, who just last week celebrated his 17th birthday, was gunned down shortly before 10 p.m. on Darthmouth Street. The shooter remains on the loose, and police have yet to identify any suspects.
The group gathered near a memorial featuring flowers, candles, teddy bears and even a half-eaten honey bun doughnut. The letters “RIP” were written in red on the street.
Quinones’ uncle, Eddie Gordon, speaking for the teen’s mother, asked that there be no retaliation in his nephew’s name.
“What I would like to say to the person who did this is you committed physical homicide against Dante but emotional manslaughter against all of us,” he said, his jaw shaking. “We hope for your capture. I will ask that no one retaliate because we want mother justice to do what she does best.”
“We forgive you, we love you,” he added. “You hurt us but we don’t want to hurt you.”
Quinones was a talented basketball player who easily found humor in almost anything, Gordon said, drawing smiles from the family.
His aunt, Mia Quinones, said she wanted her nephew to be remembered for all the good he did and for his loyalty and admiration for family.
“We are so hurting in a place we didn’t even know existed,” she said. “And [it's] only a place that the Lord can heal.”
The shooting, among several that have occurred in the area over the summer, has put the community on edge. Activists signaled that they would seek real change in the village.
“We are no longer on the sidelines, we are in the game,” said Darrin Green, also of the Long Island Law Enforcement Alliance.
Valerie McFadden, a community activist who has written 295 names of people tragically killed on Long Island, including Quinones, on poster boards, said, “I’m not going to allow those names to be forgotten.”
“We need to take our community back,” she added.
Pegues acknowledged a group of Nassau County police detectives who arrived on the scene.
“I’m imploring everyone, the detectives are here, Dante is gone,” he said, raising a Crime Stoppers flyer in the air. “They’re trying to solve this homicide, if you know of anything when they knock on your door please invite them in.”
The alliance said they would begin holding monthly crime meetings to educate the community and attempt to create change from the inside-out.
“Youth have no regard for life, they don’t respect it, and they don’t cherish it,” lamented Quinones’ aunt, Mia. “They think its a game and it’s not. There’s no take backs, there’s no do overs for this, there’s no way to kind of polish it or put a Bandaid over it. This is it. We will never see Dante again.”