Smoke curled up Sunday afternoon from more than 100 prayer candles lining the curb of 1633 Becker St.
The smell of burning wax mingled with that of burning tobacco from cigarettes lit and stubbed out by a small crowd of mourners.
Jose “Mickey” Torres, 24, was shot and killed Friday night during a family gathering in the backyard of the Becker Street home. One of his brothers, 31-year-old Luis Gomez also shot, but not fatally.
Sunday afternoon, Torres’ front lawn was full of friends and family, chatting, playing with half a dozen small children and relighting faltering candles.
“We still don’t know what happened,” said Hector Gomez, the only one of the three brothers not at the Friday night family gathering.
He was at work until 10 p.m., half an hour after the shooting.
“I heard on my way home,” he said. “That’s not a call you like to get.”
Friday night, Mickey Torres was rushed to Albany Medical Center, but died of gunshot wounds to the chest. Luis, Hector said, was only grazed in the back of the neck and is fine.
Mementoes of a life
He pointed out pieces of his brother’s identity, embodied in the memorial — trinkets and mementoes in amongst the candles.
“This,” he said, lifting a very large empty bottle of Ciroc vodka, “was our favorite. Coconut. It was the only thing the three of us drank. A lot of good memories with this.”
There were other bottles too, tilted in the grass — some Smirnoff and Jameson — but Hector said those were brought by neighbors in solidarity.
Draped over pictures of Mickey and his wife and friends were camouflage bandanas, identical to the one tied around Hector’s hat, and the dozens of others worn by passing friends.
“Wait ’til the funeral,” said another family member who goes by Freedom Gomez. “It’s going to be crazy. Mickey was loved, and everyone is going to be wearing camo.”
Hector explained the bandanas are a shared visual bond, denoting a crew of friends and family stretching across Schenectady.
Taped to a hefty old tree out front was a $20 bill and three dice. Those dice, he said were his brothers’ favorite pastime: a backyard three-dice version of craps called Cee-lo.
“That was his addiction,” he laughed, adding that Mickey was probably playing the game, rolling the dice against other guys in camo bandanas, when a gunman stepped around the corner of the house and opened fire.
ASKING what happened
“I wish I would have been there,” said Gomez, who was also at work at the time. “Maybe it would have turned out differently.”
The two of them stood and talked about what may have happened. While emergency-radio transmissions Friday night indicated that witnesses heard three shots, then saw three men walk away from the scene, Hector Torres and Gomez said there was just one person with a gun.
As of Sunday evening, Schenectady police had released no addition information regarding any suspects. Family members didn’t have any ideas.
“He was loved,” Gomez said. “I don’t know who would have done this.”
“A lot of people hate,” Hector said. “Someone was going after the three of us brothers. Everybody likes us. Maybe someone couldn’t stand it.”
Two days after the shooting, Gomez worried that Mickey had gotten himself in trouble and not told anyone.
“He wasn’t one to look for trouble,” he said, “But he didn’t back down, and he handled things himself. I guess we’ll never know.”
Children ran around, dodging other kids on bikes and scooters. They laughed while parents talked about the homicide victim.
“That little girl is his,” Hector said, pointing at a speeding training-wheeled bike. “He had four kids. Those kids just became my kids.”
He’s in the process of moving into his brother’s house with his own wife and two children — ready to support the whole crew.
“It’s how it should be,” Gomez said.