Sanchez wants the Strangler off the streets just as badly as everyone else. Maybe even more. His sister, Diane, claims that she faced down the killer last month following an argument with a friend that left her unexpectedly alone on Kensington Avenue. As she dialed a pay phone to call Sanchez for a ride, a man with a striking resemblance to the police sketch—she says he even had the slight limp evident in surveillance video—walked up to her and lit her cigarette before she recognized him. Fortunately, he didn’t attack her.
The family already lost one sister to the streets of Kensington. In 2003, Sanchez’s sister Joanna died of AIDS. “She was out here prostituting. She was doing drugs,” he says. “I’d see her come in the house, scabbed up … having just escaped getting raped. I grew up around all that and it hurts you, to see your family to go through that.”
Sanchez says that because of those experiences he has a different perspective on the murders.
“I have friends who are like, ‘[It's] just another hooker, another prostitute.’ [I say], that’s somebody’s sister, somebody’s mother.”
He pauses before adding, “Somebody’s daughter.”
Initially Sanchez was reluctant to file a complaint against the police, but he had a system-savvy heavy looking out for him who wasn’t about to let the incident slide.
“I forced him to file a complaint,” says 46-year-old Greg Bucceroni, coordinator of Crime Victim Services/Youth At Risk program and Sanchez’s common-law brother-in-law. “Chino didn’t want to go to the cops. Guys similar to Chino who [get] stopped … their thing is not to go to the police to complain about police, they’re going to blast music, smoke a blunt, drink a 40oz and tell their friends, ‘Fuck the police.’”
Instead, Bucceroni says he accompanied Sanchez down to Internal Affairs at police headquarters to file a formal complaint.
Bucceroni, a former juvenile delinquent turned anti-crime and victims’ services crusader, has been watching out for Sanchez since he was a kid. He says when he first heard that his brother-in-law had been stopped and swabbed for DNA, he wanted to “bust heads.” Especially since he was with Sanchez minutes before the incident and recalls some officers eyeing Sanchez up while he was standing next to him at the mayor’s press conference.
“They came up to me and inquired who he was, and I said, ‘he’s my brother-in-law, and he volunteers,’” Bucceroni says. “They waited for me to turn the corner, and then they pounced on him.”
Bucceroni is a local legend. As the oft-repeated lore goes, he was a troublemaking Philly kid who ran away to New York City where he ran errands for infamous mobsters like Henry Hill and assorted good-fellas.
“I was a wannabe junior mobster,” he says.
Bucceroni’s life changed around 1976 when the Son of Sam killer struck New York, earning the NYPD unwanted mass media attention. Bucceroni recalls that the department, struggling at the time to break the case, essentially bribed local hoodlums with sneakers and food to help them catch the killer by doing things like passing out fliers and talking locals into tipping police—the same kind of stuff he and Sanchez have been doing in Kensington.
Ultimately, it was a tip from a woman at a community meeting that cops initially overlooked—dismissing her as a crackpot, Bucceroni says—that led to solving the murders.
Ever since then, Bucceroni sees himself as an intermediary, bridging the gap between authorities and citizens to help everyday quality-of-life issues. His combination of fearlessness and ability to navigate bureaucracy—and his ability to communicate effectively in both worlds—makes him uniquely qualified to act as street intelligence. The PPD knows him both for his brash brand of activism and because two of his brothers are former Philadelphia police officers.
Bucceroni claims that since the incident with Sanchez, he’s spoken with 25 local young men who claim they’ve also had their cheeks scrubbed for DNA without proper protocol.
“They told me how the police pulled their gun, threw them on the ground and made them give a swab,” says Bucceroni, adding that he hands the men the the phone number for the Police Advisory Commission and encourages them to file a complaint.
“So far, there’s been 154 swabs taken from various individuals along the Kensington corridor,” announced at the Dec. 21 press conference.
Savage Love: Sondheim is solace