Rapper’s mother relieved by arrest in his 2013 slaying

Milagros Ortega holds a collage of photos showing her son, Francisco Leal, who was shot and killed in Queensbridge in 2013. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A Manhattan mother waited one year, two months and two days for news that there had been an arrest in the Queensbridge shooting death of her son, an aspiring rapper.

And two weeks ago Milagros Ortega received the call from a 114th Precinct detective that authorities had caught up with 29-year-old Clarence Scott in Petersburg, Va., and extradited him to New York, where he was charged with Francisco Leal’s murder, police said.

“I drove him crazy. I called him every single day,” Ortega said of the detective. “When he gave me that good news, the burden was lifted off and I dropped the phone, and I got nervous. I went to the floor and started to pray.”

A spokeswoman for the Petersburg Police Department said Scott, who has ties to Far Rockaway, was cooperative when he was taken into custody by U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force April 4.

Once back in the borough, Scott was arraigned on charges of shooting Leal once in the chest on 21st Avenue near the Queensbridge Houses Feb. 2, 2013, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Queens district attorney’s office. He was scheduled to return to court May 14, the DA’s office said. Leal’s attorney could not be reached for comment.

An aspiring rapper who went by the name Tracks, Leal was trying to find his place again in society after serving most of a 10-year sentence for assault, burglary and intimidation, according to state Corrections records.

Leal was three months into his six months of parole when he was killed, Ortega said.

After Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc in many parts of the city in 2012, Leal was able to find temporary work tearing down damaged ceilings, a task which was easier for him than most at a height of 6-foot-11.

“It made me proud of him because he’d been through a lot as a young kid growing up in Queensbridge Houses,” Ortega said during an interview in her Manhattan apartment, where she has created a small shrine to her son.

Ortega moved to Manhattan in 2000 after her son’s arrest. After being released from prison, Leal returned to the Long Island City housing development.

“I don’t know what made him go back. He loved the music, so everything that he rapped about was for the love of Queensbrid­ge,” his mother said. “He died right where he loved to be, right on the corner of 21st Street.”

Ortega believes her son was targeted by loved ones of a man being punched by a third person in a video Leal took and posted on Facebook, but a spokesman for the NYPD could not confirm her theory.

“Several words were exchanged. A week later he was killed,” she said. “He was actually stalked, watched.”

The NYPD said in December that Clarence Scott, then identified as Lawrence Scott, was a suspect in Leal’s murder, and Ortega said authorities had been searching for him until last month.

Immediately after Leal’s death, Ortega said she became galvanized as an activist against gun violence and joined Harlem Mothers Save (Stop Another Violent End).

“I never thought about being in this situation,” she said. “I’ve had plenty of friends growing up, you know, killed through guns, but it touched home now and it’s time to do something about it.”

The group has been pushing for a state requirement that firearms manufactured in New York be microstamped and the passage of Nicholas’s Law, a state Assembly bill that would require the safe storage of guns when they are not in the immediate possession or control of the owner.

Ortega rallied last week with New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and the reACTION Youth Program in Albany, and she plans to enroll in a course that prepares volunteers to comfort families of violence victims.

“I do have a 6-year-old granddaughter. I have a host of nieces and nephews and good children, who I fear for,” she said. “Queensbridge has a reputation of gun violence. I just hope it stops.”

Reach managing editor Christina Santucci by e-mail at by phone at 718-260-4589.

Updated 11:53 am, May 12, 2014
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