Residents Blame Store Clerk's Shooting Death on Cops' Interrogation Tactics

Police arrest four in connection with the murder of Reyna Aguirre-Alonso.

By Michael Alan Goldberg
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 6 | Posted Jan. 31, 2012

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Cookie says police brought Aguirre-Alonso back to the bodega about five hours later. She says Aguirre-Alonso told her that detectives pressured her to identify Aldea as the shooter, but that she couldn’t because she insisted it was too dark to see the shooter’s face.

“I don’t hate the police, but they know what kind of neighborhood this is,” she says. “Everyone in Philadelphia knows Mutter Street. So why would they pick up somebody in broad daylight, an eyewitness to a murder, and then drop her back here and just leave it like that?”

Last month, PW spoke to Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross for a cover story about a new “Start Snitching” campaign, and he insisted the PPD handles witness questioning and cooperation in a delicate manner.

“In some of these environments, you’re not even gonna try to [question them] right there,” Ross said at the time. “You have to kinda slyly sneak somebody a card. We’re not trying to tip off the whole neighborhood.”

But that doesn’t appear to be what happened with Aguirre-Alonso. Bucceroni says that in the wake of her death, dozens of residents in the neighborhood who were planning to join town-watch groups or participate in other anti-crime programs have told him to forget it.

Rather than give up, though, he’s altering his pitch to “See Something, Say Something on the Down Low.” He’s trying to teach people how to use pre-paid cell phones or anonymous email addresses to report crime without having anything traced back to them. “Don’t use your phone for anything other than 911 calls, because in a major investigation like a homicide, they’ll subpoena phone records and try to figure out who you are,” he advises, adding that people should never give any personal information to 911 operators.

In an ideal world, where there’s an emphasis on witness protection, Bucceroni says that such measures wouldn’t be necessary. “But all [police] wanna do is solve the case, and some of them don’t give two shits about you. Not all of them, but some. But until they decide to protect [witnesses] better, this is what you gotta do.”

Bucceroni’s mildly encouraged by Mayor Nutter’s newly unveiled crime-fighting plan, which promises more funds for witness protection, but he says there’s too much of a disconnect between the Nutter administration and the residents of rough neighborhoods for officials to truly understand why people won’t cooperate with police.

“They talk a whole lot, but they don’t live in that world, they don’t understand the dangers,” says Bucceroni. “I want them to know what every citizen feels. It’s easy when they do the walks [in bad neighborhoods] and there’s 50,000 cops and news cameras around. No—I want you to leave the cameras and the cops and the guns behind, take SEPTA to the location and engage with some of these guys on the corner, and then I want you to feel the anxiety that goes through you on the way back while you’re waiting on that corner at midnight for the bus. Only then will you know the fear these people have, and you’ll understand why we need to protect witnesses.”

Still, Bucceroni believes that the uproar over the circumstances surrounding Aguirre-Alonso’s killing will force improvements in city policy and police procedure regarding witnesses. “It’s unfortunate we have to create change at the cost of someone’s life, but change will come,” he says. “And if it doesn’t come, then I will motherfuck these guys until it does.”

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Comments 1 - 6 of 6
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1. Anonymous said... on Feb 1, 2012 at 12:05AM

“the cops def should have been careful on how they approached this but they didn't and they should be ashamed of it...but the drugs and dealers n killers are to blame for this! they need to get off our streets for our family's to be safe!”

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2. Anonymous said... on Feb 1, 2012 at 10:49AM

“the stupidity of the police in this situation is not forgivable. the same thing applies to the DA's office. the resignation of those involved should be demanded.”

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3. Anonymous said... on Feb 1, 2012 at 08:58PM

“What do you expect in a culture that promotes violence and makes idols out of gangsters and drug dealers. All kids want to be are rap stars or criminals because that is what they are raised on. In music, peer social interaction, and influence from older people they are taught that crime and violence is acceptable. Even worse, those who try and stop this vicious cycle are ostracized when they are the only true role models for these youth. If everyone called 911 and everyone cooperated, this wouldn't of happened.”

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4. Anonymous said... on Feb 1, 2012 at 10:03PM

“Their is a connection between dirty cops and the drug dealers and every one who lives in these crime ridden neighborhoods know that. People learn real quick that no one can be trusted, especially the cops. Also, the city officials want the people who live in these neighborhoods to cooperate with police and give information (snitch) on the criminals. But their is also a "no snitch" policy in the ranks of the police also, and due to the same fears of being killed or hurt as civilians, keeps the good cops from turning in the bad cops who are the hidden hand behind some of the murders, drug dealing, prostitution and other crimes.
Mayor Nutter and other politicians only get involved when some affluent white person has been killed or the crimes happen in center city. Everyone, even a blind person can see the racist double standard blatantly practiced.”

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5. Emanuel said... on Feb 6, 2012 at 06:14AM

“You wonder why people are so scared to talk. If you are giving key info on a murder, they need to put you in a protection program or something. The Badlands?? Really?”

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6. Anonymous said... on May 5, 2012 at 02:11PM

“I know several dirty cops around ontario and westmoreland that stated "we dont give a fuck who lives or not we just want the suspect"
Yup thats PPD for you then you wonder why everyone wants carlos vega dead.”


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