Missing 911 Call Holds Up Salgado Murder Trial

hockeemNYPD Hockeem Smith

Over a year after Hockeem Smith was charged in the murder of Keith Salgado, the 25-year-old is still awaiting trial.

The victim’s mother, Aida Salgado, had hoped a trial date would be set at a court hearing today, but Assistant District Attorney Janine Gilbert told the judge that 911 calls from the night of the shooting have yet to be found and submitted as evidence. As a result, the date won’t be set until Dec. 11 at the earliest.

Dressed in an orange prison uniform, with black-rimmed glasses, Mr. Smith was silent during today’s brief court appearance, his eleventh so far. He did not look back into the gallery where Ms. Salgado sat.

In the last year, the grieving mother has struggled to piece together the details of the night her son was killed.

At a recent memorial, friends and family said that over 40 people were in the courtyard where the shooting took place during an early-morning dice game on Oct. 16 of last year. Not enough of them have come forward, said the victim’s cousin, Christy Cortes, 21.

“Anybody can I.D. him,” said Ms. Cortes of the shooter. “Anybody can point a finger and say, ‘Oh he did it,’ but who’s going to say what actually happened at that moment, at that place in time?”

She added, “Nobody wants to talk but everybody wants to claim Keith as family.”

Both Ms. Cortes and Ms. Salgado believe that the murder was premeditated, orchestrated by those who professed to be lifelong friends with the 18-year-old. On the night of the murder, said Ms. Saldago, her son came home with about $1,500 in winnings from a dice game; friends encouraged him, via text message, to return to the game to try to double his money. He was later shot in the courtyard where the dice game was being held.

According to Ms. Cortes, the teen’s life had been threatened three months prior, shortly after a group from Campos Plaza attempted to jump her boyfriend, a resident of the Alfred E. Smith Houses. “At that moment they told me that Keith was a dead man, that Keith and my boyfriend were dead men.”

For Ms. Salgado, reliving the murder is a daily, and intensely emotional, experience. In recent months, she found a handwritten letter in her son’s backpack addressed “to anyone who cares,” in which the teen wrote that his mother was the only one who truly treated him with respect.

“I would be so devastated if they were to release him,” she said of the suspect.

Last month, at the Ninth Precinct Community Council’s annual awards ceremony, Detective Robert Ronne was recognized for his work interviewing the “numerous witnesses to the crime” and identifying Mr. Smith as the suspect.