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Man seeking work shot dead in Jamaica mall

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In what appeared to be a robbery, Rodriguez, 31, was shot twice by two assailants Dec. 29 as he left the labyrythine rest room on the lower level of the normally bustling mall, police, family and witnesses said. The hardworking Honduran immigrant who lived with his daughter and wife in Brooklyn died a short while later at Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica, police said."He said, 'Mama, please help me, someone just shot me,'" said Neela Anderson, 34, who works at a men's clothing store adjacent to the restrooms. Anderson heard gunshots coming from inside the bathroom. "In the beginning, I thought it was maybe just someone fixing something."Anderson said Rodriguez emerged from the restroom dazed, stumbled to an area just in front of the store and then collapsed in front of her. "I mean it was so scary," Anderson said. "It could have been anyone."A Brooklyn teen was arrested and charged in connection with the murder the day after the shooting. As of Monday, authorities were still looking for a second man.Harry Ricks, 17, of 370 Bushwick Ave., has been charged with murder in the second-degree and criminal possession of a weapon.A mall employee said security cameras were operating in the area where the shooting occurred. She speculated that the video footage may have helped lead police to the suspect.After the shooting, police temporarily sealed the mall located on 89th St in downtown Jamaica. Workers on the upper floor said the gunshots were barely audible upstairs. Police checked identification and began allowing people to leave, said Rafi Samad, 50, manager of an upstairs men's underwear stall. Samad said few shoppers were in the mall at the time. "It was very slow," he said.Rodriguez, a Honduran immigrant, lived until two years ago in a Jamaica apartment building just blocks from where he was killed.Sandra Hernandez, a family friend who lived downstairs from Rodriguez, remembered him as a devout churchgoer who had briefly left the Iglesia Hispana de la Comunidad, where he worshipped, but had recently returned.Rodriguez's sister, Araceli Bonilla, who flew up from Texas, said her brother left New York in November 2003 to spend time with her. Bonilla said Rodriguez also spent several months with his brother Rigoberto in Philadelphia before deciding recently to return to New York."They were separated from a long time," Bonilla said of Rodriguez and his wife. But, she added, "he came back for the love of his wife and his daughter."On the morning of the shooting, Rodriguez, who neighbors said lived with his wife and daughter in Brooklyn, left home to look for work around 8 a.m., Bonilla said. Around 12:30 p.m., he stopped into the mall to use the rest room where he was shot, she said."He was a hardworking man," Bonilla said. "He never bothered anyone."Bonilla said the family was uncertain where Rodriguez would be buried. She said the family could not afford a funeral in Queens, nor could they afford to send Rodriguez's body back to Honduras. Bonilla said in all likelihood Rodriguez would be buried in Philadelphia, a service that will still cost about $5,000."We're planning his funeral (but) we don't have any money," Bonilla said. "We're trying to collect money."Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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