Two wheelchair-bound residents of an East Village shelter got into a deadly argument early yesterday morning. Witnesses say that 24-year-old Ronal Garcia was killed after being stabbed repeatedly by 51-year-old suspect Felipe Rivera-Cruz after the pair exchanged insults.
Police were first called to the Barrier-Free Living facility on East Second Street about an hour before the stabbing to break up a fight between the two men that started when the younger man took offense to something the older man said. "[Cruz] was talking about his [Garcia’s] genitals — you have a short one this, you have a short one that," Garcia’s roommate told the Post. So Garcia struck Cruz in the head twice with the footrest of his wheelchair, knocking him to the ground and giving him a “miniature gash” on the forehead.
Police arrived and Cruz urged them to look at surveillance video of the altercation because he reportedly wanted to press charges, but the officers left without taking action. Witnesses said police assumed Cruz was drunk and said he might have fallen out of his wheelchair, though the NYPD insisted that neither wanted to press charges nor needed medical attention. After the officers exited the facility — where Cruz had lived for a year and a half and Garcia for month — the older man went up to his room, retrieved a homemade folding knife, and used his faster motorized wheelchair to catch up to Garcia, who relied on a slower manual wheelchair. Cruz then and stabbed Garcia more than a dozen times until a security guard wrestled away the knife at around 4:20 am, according to witnesses, who said they watched the crime unfold on a surveillance video monitor. Garcia was pronounced dead at Beth Israel Medical Center, while Cruz was charged with murder and possession of a weapon.
Residents of the building said that Garcia had "a really foul mouth" and would often get into disputes with older residents, while the suspect — who was identified as being 52-years-old in the Post — "had been drinking and had a bad reputation for being a hothead when he consumed alcohol," according to the tabloid. Both men relied on wheelchairs after being injured by gunfire. According to the Times, Garcia moved out of his family's home on University Avenue in the Bronx to "protect his family" after being shot multiple times in May. He reportedly called his sister between his first altercation with Cruz and the deadly stabbing: “He told me he had a fight,” she said. “He said, ‘The police is coming. Come pick me up.’”