Friend remembers slain Briarwood man as ‘fun’

Member of the NYPD's Crime Scene Unit perform an investigation into the murder. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Days after a 20-year-old Briarwood man was found shot dead on an Ozone Park street, police were still searching for a weapon and clues as to who fired the bullets, the NYPD said.

The Police Department said officers were called to 103rd Avenue and 108th Street around 5 a.m. Saturday, where Branden Santiago was found near a scooter and wearing a helmet with two gunshot wounds in his head.

First responders brought Santiago to Jamaica Hospital, where the Briarwood resident was pronounced dead, according to the NYPD.

Police said they believed Santiago was shot near that intersection and were not yet sure how he was connected to the black bike.

As of Wednesday, the department said it had no suspects and had not recovered a weapon.

Many in the neighborhood seemed shocked to wake up Saturday morning and find officers investigating clothing and what appeared to be shell casings at the taped-off intersection.

“We were going to walk that way and then I saw what happened,” said Jacqueline Ramos, gesturing to the yellow police tape wrapped around the block and members of the NYPD’s Crime Scene Unit snapping photos of evidence. “This is a good neighborhood. That’s why I live here.”

Aron Ali, who went to high school with Santiago and used to work at CVS with him, described him as a focused, but pleasant person. He said it was hard to imagine someone wanting to harm Santiago.

“He was a fun person. If you were down, he was somebody you could call,” Ali said. “That’s all he did was come to school; do his work.”

But Ali said his friend stopped coming to North Queens Community High School, a transfer school in Kew Gardens Hills designed for those who struggled in traditional programs, a few months ago.

“He had some trouble with some of the people in the school,” Ali said.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at strangle@cnglocal.com.

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