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Residents unite following Sunnyside murder: many question police investigation

By Bill Parry and Christian Murray

More than 500 residents and friends of a Woodside man who was brutally murdered on a Sunnyside street last month gathered Saturday at the corner of 51st and 43rd Avenue calling for justice.

Holding candles and carrying white carnations, they participated to make a statement: this type of crime will not be tolerated in Sunnyside or Woodside. Furthermore, they wanted to put the perpetrators on notice that the community will find them.

Lou Rispoli, a long-time Woodside resident, was brutally attacked by three men at 41st Street and 43rd Avenue at 2:00 am October 20 and died five days later.

While the details of the incident are sketchy, the perpetrators were seen in a SUV or 2-door vehicle with Rispoli just prior to the attack. Then, they all got out of the vehicle and Rispoli was walking with two of the men before one of them struck him in the head with a blunt object.

Despite the warm community feeling on Saturday, beneath the surface many attendees expressed anger.  They questioned the quality of the police investigation—particularly what occurred shortly after the incident.

The police were quick to arrive on the scene after the attack, only to leave once Rispoli was placed in an ambulance and taken to Elmhurst hospital. The police didn’t come back to the scene with their crime scene evidence vehicle until late Sunday afternoon. It was only then that the block was cordoned off with the “crime scene” yellow tape, as they sought to gather evidence.

Mark Horn, who has acted as the family spokesman since the murder, had mixed emotions about Saturday’s event. “It’s gratifying to see so many people in the community come out for this,” he said. However, “it’s important for the police to see that people are grieving…that they are angry.”

“I say this to the Commissioner Ray Kelly,” Horn said. “The day after Lou Rispoli was attacked there were no police at the hospital, yet when a nanny killed two children on the Upper West Side of Manhattan there was Ray Kelly in front of the cameras.”

“It was only when the NYPD realized that Lou Rispoli had important friends in the neighborhood that he himself became important,” Horn added.

Rispoli was a friend of councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s.

Many others expressed similar views. “Lou’s close friends are organizing to make sure that there are answers,” said Annie Raven (PhD.). “Just three days ago detectives interviewed Danyal [Rispoli’s husband] and they asked the very same questions they asked the first time. It seems that the investigation is right back at the start.”

“We have a close circle of friends,” Raven said. “We’ll band together to put pressure on the investigation to deliver answers and we will not stop until we have answers.”

Despite the anger, there was a strong sense of neighborhood unity.

The event started at 4:00 pm with Van Bramer, the organizer, saying a few words.

“This is an important march and candle light vigil,” Van Bramer told the crowd gathered at 51st Street. “Lou lived on this street, was brutally killed on it, and this type of crime is not acceptable: never,” he said. “We want to tell the three people out there that he [Lou] was loved–that the neighborhood cared.”

“This is a safe community and anyone should be able walk here, at any time,” Van Bramer said, adding that he would have held the same event no matter who it was.

There is a $25,000 reward being offered for an arrest and conviction of Rispoli’s killers, including $10,000 from the mayor’s office and $2,000 from the victim’s friends, the councilman said.

The attendees left the 51st location, where Rispoli once lived, and marched down to 41st Street holding the white carnations, which were Rispoli’s favorite flowers.

At the location of Rispoli’s death, Van Bramer said: “This is our neighborhood…we have a resilient community…This is a wonderful show of peace, love and community.”

For the first time, Rispoli’s widower spoke publicly. Danyal Lawson, 60, who had married Rispoli a year ago, said “I have been robbed of an amazing man,” adding that “Lou loved the [his apartment] building, the shopkeepers the restaurant owners and was never afraid to walk the streets…”

Rispoli and Lawson had lived together for 32 years. Lawson said that the two essentially got married at a ceremony in Turkey in 1989, six years after meeting one another. The couple met on the subway in 1980.

Lawson said that he believed the murder was due to a “random act of violence.” He said that he hadn’t been paying that close attention to the investigation.  “I was so shocked by everything that I left Jimmy [Van Bramer] to keep on top of it.”

However, at the last community board meeting, Van Bramer had questions about the investigation.

“I think it is a fair question to ask why the evidence vehicle did not show up until Sunday [as opposed to Saturday morning]. I have some of the same questions you have, and we will find out what happened.”

Deputy Inspector Donald Powers, the head of the 108 Police precinct, has missed several community meetings in the past month—citing hurricane issues.

Several other officers have stepped in for Powers and have elected not to comment on the case. On Tuesday, at the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce meeting, Lt. Turner, in charge of Special Projects said, “We don’t want to hinder an active investigation. We will have a comment at the appropriate time.”

Carolina Tosi, a Community Board 2 member said: “The fact that Donald Powers was visibly absent at the last meeting, after such a horrible crime, proves that the 108th Precinct is out of touch with the community.”

candle light vigil (source: Rick Duro)

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50 Responses »

  1. Would you mind posting larger pictures, the pop up pictures is not even larger than the picture included in the article.

    As for this event, I wish we knew about it, there could have been at least 5 more people there. This sucks that police dept is not getting their act straight.. I think someone has to tell police dept that he/she thinks the attackers were radical islamic terrorists and that lou knew something about an attack to an American landmark.. Maybe then they will care. Since they care more about spying on people in NJ where NYPD has no jurisdiction instead of investigating local events where taxpayers actually live.

  2. Let’s hope they catch the killers soon.

  3. Our job as a community is to make sure the police do not forget this murder until the killers are arrested, tried and convicted.

  4. Now JVB can get back to protecting everyone except real americans

  5. How is it that there is no comment from the NYPD as part of this story. There is not even any information about how you tried to reach Mr. Powers or any other police spokesman for comment. Did you? If Mr. Van Bramer is aware of any police misfeasance in this matter, wouldn’t he take the issue to the police or the City Council? If Van Bramer told you how and when he would meet with police to consider this matter, shouldn’t that information be a part of this article?

  6. I feel guilty for not going. Thankfully the turnout was decent.

  7. D Timmerman,

    Thank you for your analysis. Every point you made was valid.
    a) The police have been contacted and that information has been included in the story. (Although that information was included after the initial story was posted)
    b) As far as Councilman Van Bramer is concerned…he has said that he wants to focus on finding the perpetrators. Then he wants to look more closely at the investigation.

    Thanks.

  8. Probability of the suspects being caught is very low. There is no equilibria between the 108s raging nonchalance/ homophobia and the financial incentive to rat out these suspects. Ratting people out is a business. The payout ratio for this crime is way too low.

  9. I think that the odds the killers are caught might not be that low. People cant keep their mouths shut, someone will brag about it to a friend, who will get arrested for X crime and then give the cops a ‘bigger fish’.

  10. While my heart goes out to the Rispoli family and I respect the sentiment surrounding the vigil, I do question Van Bramers motives. While he said he would have held this march regardless of the victim, I find this hard to believe. I know Van Bramer had a very personal connection to this loss, but he needs to address all of the acts of violence in our neighborhood.
    I have lived in Sunnyside for over a decade and there have been a number of unresolved murders. Never in all of my time here have I seen these murders addressed. Several years ago two people were murdered in an apartment building on 47th Ave. No one was ever arrested for these murders, and there was never a march against violence for these victims. Our police precinct needs to be held accountable for all of these unresolved murders, not just the ones that get the most recognition by politicians.

  11. WAs a vigil held after the man was killed at the New Post diner or was tha man’s life unimportant? I do not not think that homophotobia had anything to do with the investgation being “bungled” – and if arrests are made, we will say a “job well done”. It sounds like Lou was trying to get away from these hoodlums and asked to get out on 41st Street rather than 51st Street where he lived. The lesson: don’t go into a car with people you don’t know, and ALWAYS CARRY YOUR CELL PHONE. Also, if you are wandering around at night, text your loved one and let him know where you are. I think one of the criminals will shoot off his mouth but the police need to keep this story in the news.

  12. What are the unsolved murders since JVB has gained office?

    Post Diner-during Gioia’s term
    2 on 47th Ave that were mentioned above-I can’t find any info online abt this. What year?

    Agreed, the 108th needs to do a better job, this case has been fumbled since the beginning.

    RD

  13. Do we know if the police have found out anything new since the crime? I now see posters up on that block but no new info.

  14. What exactly would some of you folks like the NYPD to make public? What details would satisfy you arm- chair investigators? And what makes you believe that you are ENTITLED to such information?

  15. Webley: Keep checking the sunnysidepost.com. This is the only news outlet that has given this tragic crime the coverage it warrants–including information about this march.
    Same is true of other major crimes and incidents in the neighborhood of late. Nice job, sunnysidepost!

  16. And as for the criticism against JVB, instead of blaming him for things that didn’t happen in the past, why not hold him to his own standards in the future? Anytime there’s a major crime in the neighborhood, there should be a public response–I’m sure that Councilman Van Bramer could meet that challenge.

  17. I don’t understand the negative comments directed to Mr. Van Bramer and his role in organizing and leading yesterday’s demonstration. Mr. Van Bramer has made clear that he was acting as a private citizen and not as an elected representative and that Mr. Rispoli and his family are personal friends. Mr. Rispoli was a person well known by many in our community. How does the yesterday’s public demonstration against the murder which occurred a few weeks ago (and support for the Rispoli family) in any manner reflect on the significance of murders that occurred several years ago?

  18. The murders that occured on 47th Ave were in 2005. Rose Gilbert and John Dalton were found stabbed to death.

  19. Webley: A once fine weapon whose time has passed.

  20. I withdraw the esoteric comment.

  21. well said, OM.

    RD

  22. The 47th Ave murders in a building across from the park involved a woman who had recently moved to NYC from Texas or somewhere out west to be an actress. Her male roommate apparently had various ‘dates’ and one of them murdered the roommate and the actress.
    I tried to find the story online but no luck yet. I remember the stories were focused on her moving to NYC to fulfill her dreams. She was in her late 30s I think. I never heard of any arrests in that case.

    There was also a stabbing death in that park that was said to be drug-related.

  23. http://projects.nytimes.com/crime/homicides/map – go to 2005 and look at the dots for Sunnyside area (there are a few). You’ll see June 21, 2005. It was a triple murder. I forgot the woman had a friend there who was also killed. Sorry can’t find the story.
    But the map may provide more unsolved murders in the neighborhood.

    That said, the 108th needs to be held accountable. What did they think had happened to the victim that night that they didn’t bother investigating? Did they assume he was just drunk and fell?
    They told a friend who’d been assaulted that the perpetrator probably just thought she was cute.
    Protecting and serving

  24. How long s JVB in office??? Stop the negativity against him and focus on the crime that happened in our neigherhood.i can only guess that the people who love to knock him don’t even know him. Also I am figuring that none of ye were at the vigil on Sat evening. Ye were probaly too busy sitting on your couches thinking about what comment u can leave on this site to create more negativity about Mr Van Bramer. U people are pathetic. Get out there and b seen and heard at local community meetings instead of venting on this site. All I hope s that the people who committed this horrific crime are caught and made pay for their brutality.god bless Christian Murray and Sunnyside post for keeping us informed on what’s happening in our community. Only for Sunnyside post we would not know a lot of the stuff that s happening in the neigherhood.

  25. as I stated before, Mr. Rispoli got treated like so many minorities do. It is a shame you all have to see for yourselves how the police lack any interest unless there’s cameras or being pushed by people in power.

    I commend JVB for putting pressure on these people for showing their true hand in matters. Bitch about the dog park all you want, the guys out there getting shit done.

  26. Btw does anyone know if the vigil was on any news channel sat nite or Sunday?channel 7 and 11 were there but I haven’t seen any tv in the last 2 days.

  27. Jimmy Van Bramer was not the City Council rep in 2005. So stop blaming him for stuff that happened or didn’t happen at that time.

    NYPD may have had leads on unsolved crimes that they just didn’t happen to share with the general public. That happens sometimes. It may appear a case is going unsolved but you can never be certain unless they say “We have no leads,” which appears to be the case with Mr. Rispoli.

    As someone else said, hold Jimmy accountable to his own standard, not to something that happened in the past and far beyond his control. Let’s hope there won’t be a “next time” when it comes to murder in this neighborhood for us to find out.

    Finally, I notice there are a few signs at the intersection of 51st Street and 43rd Avenue, but I think it would be better if there were signs in shops and restaurants throughout the neighborhood. Just 2 blocks away there is no information posted.

  28. There were three perpetrators – I would hope that one of them shoots his mouth off or goes to the police to make a deal. There is no statute of limitations on murder. I would love to see the New Post diner killer arrested as well as the murderer of the couple in the 47th Avenue apartment (facing Mario’s restaurant). If the 108th does not have homicide detective who are up to this, let them bring in some real pros. These murders should be SOLVED.

  29. well said voice of reason

  30. There was also a murder committed at the Queensboro train station upstairs where the N connects to the 7. Also, to the best of my knowledge, no arrests. And this one was committed with a gun.

  31. @ Long time Sunnysider: This segment aired on the 7:00 PM edition of the news on Channel 7 on Saturday evening. I know because I DVR’d the news segment. Channel 7 did not replay this segment on their 11:30 PM news edition. May Lou Rispoli R.I.P. and I hope his murderers are caught and brought to justice!

  32. If the 108th can’t do its job, let them bring in detectives who can. One unsolved murder is 10 too many.

  33. I happened upon the vigil just about the time the group reached 41st Street and without a thought I knew exactly what was going on because I had read about it, saw the posters, etc etc. I remained standing in the street while the speeches were made. While standing there I was approached by at least 3 ppl asking, ‘what’s going on”, etc etc. By the 3rd time I simply pointed to the poster letting the uniformed simply update him or herself on what has been happening in their neighborhood…then they simply walked away without interest. In the shop a block away I heard a woman asking the shop keeper what’s going on with “all of those ppl and the candles”. He tells her. All she wanted to know was the nationality of the victim, which the shopkeeper did not know, and off she went with kids trailing behind her, not interested. RIP sir.

  34. @sandycat Thank you. By contrast to your report, there were people who showed a great deal of compassion at this event, including a Muslim woman with two children in tow who went up to the victim’s husband and asked if there was anything she could possibly do to abate his pain. That sort of kindness goes a long way, and it will never be forgotten.

  35. Sandycat,

    Of course there are people that weren’t aware of the vigil or why it was called. You attempt to portray them as cold and selfish. That’s unfair.

    Not everybody is as emotionally attached to this tragedy as you and some others are.

    Did it occur to you that those people you judged “not interested” might have their own family tragedies and serious issues they are currently dealing with?

    They could easily ask, why aren’t YOU aware of their THEIR personal losses and sharing their grief? The Rispoli murder was a horrific event and should be addressed but – believe it or not – there are other people and families dealing with heartache and loss at any given moment, not just you.

  36. There is an illegal youth hostel operating out of 47-09 43 Ave….the hostel attracts an unsavory and transient element , along with a group of teenagers unsupervised that continously taunt both woman and gays with foul language and menacing behavior. Google “hostel” Sunnyside….want to stop violence? start there!

  37. I think the victim was trying to get away from the three criminals and asked to let out far from his home. I sure hope the police are showing his photo in other neighborhoods. He returned in a car – he must have gone more than a block from his home. I always disliked 47th Street and 43rd Avenue – now I know why!

  38. ….thank you sunnyside post for keeping this community informed …i have lived in this neighborhood for 23years and while i know many of the shop keepers and neighbors from other streets etc…..i was not otherwise aware of the amount of crime that has plagued our comminity….I think JVB is doing a good job of setting out what he intended to do….and that is to work for the betterment of his community.

  39. My heart goes out to Mr. Rispoli and his family. I too avoid 43 ave between 47 street and 48 street. The people in and out of that house 47-09 are ruining the block. It makes sense after reading the previous post “hostel” This seems to be more of a shelter of some sort. JVB needs to look into this. No person should be afraid to walk anywhere in Sunnyside.

  40. Found the website:
    https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/231933

    Read the “review” of the woman sleeping on a mattress near the front door!

    “You get what you pay for. I slept in the living room right by the front door. Lots of people coming and going on a Friday night, very late at night. Had to pass through another bedroom to get to the bathroom. Friendly host ”
    Tiffany.

    “When we booked the apartment, we agreed with Louis to be accomodated in another apartment (47-09 43rd Avenue, Sunnyside, NY 11104) because this one was fully booked, so this review concerns the Sunnyside flat. The apartment was simple but perfect for the three days we stayed there. The reception was very warm and the hosts were at our disposal for anything we needed. “

  41. Many question the police investigation? I feel deeply saddened when anyone regardless of who they are is a victim of a violent act……but lets put this particular crime in perspective. Mr. Rispoli lived in Woodside on 51 street. He was attacked on 41 street in Sunnyside. The attack took place in the early morning hours. Mr. Rispoli met his attackers two blocks away which would put him on or about 39 place since 43 ave is a one way street. Lets ask a simple question What was a “married” man doing walking in an industrial area at that time of night? He then chose to accept a ride with complete strangers? Is it possible that this was some sort of a sexual encounter gone “bad”? If so he put himself in danger the moment he decided to act upon those impulses and get into that car. Maybe Mr. Rispoli assaulted someone in the car, hit them,stole something out of the vehicle , if they were going to assualt him …why not do it in the car? Were drugs invovled? Why let him out and then accost him two blocks away? Yes it was a brutal act but one that could have been avoided had Mr. Rispoli not put himself in harms way…..it was his decision. So lets not jump to conclusions there may be extenuating circumstances invovled.

  42. Thomas you need not speak ill of the dead lest you want them to come after you. Mind your own business. There is NO excuse for murder.

  43. Disgusted…..please re-read what I wrote. I was not casting aspersions toward Mr. Rispoli nor speaking ill of him. I believe this to be a heinous act. That said, people have to be aware that the decisions they make may not only impact themselves but others. One should refrain from drawing conclusions about anything regarding the circumstances until someone is arrested and charged. As far as “minding my own business” it is my right to express my opinion especially when given a forum to do so. You need to practice a little “tolerance” and not be so quick to rush to judgement.

  44. I am confused. What does the house on 43rd street have to do with Lou’s murder? Am I missing something? By the way I live on 48th off of 43rd and I think I know the house everyone is referring to. I am going to walk my dog and check and see if it is the same house. If it is, I am not sure if it is a hostel but I definetely think that there is a lot of shady stuff happening there.

  45. Okay, the house I am concerned about is not 47-09 it is 47-15.

  46. @Thomas Lou Rispoli was a legally married man in the eyes of the law in the state of New York, so your quotes around the term are not appropriate.

  47. I also wonder why the victim did not carry his cell phone with him late at night. Cell phones save lives and of course, have GPS tracking devices. It sounds like Mr. Rispoli wanted to get away from these characters. For the record, if my sons were missing for two hours, I would go out myself looking for them and I would INSIST they carry their phones and tell me where they are. Something in this story does not add up. I would check the local bars, go into Jackson Heights also and go into the parks. I would think that the same characters hang out there at night and may have seen something.

  48. Dear ..Disgusted….heartbroken…

    Again, let me say that what happened to Mr. Rispoli is an affront to every human being. A crime….. a heinous crime was committed. First, I as an American, a jew, and the grandson of holocaust survivors am appalled when any one group be it white supremicists, gays, conservatives, etc…..deny others the “right” to thier opinion or an objective look at the “facts”. This is a public forum…you may want to rush to judgement and convict several people of a crime they may or may not have committed. Maybe? Mr. Rispoli exited the car and was accosted by a different person or group….the people in the car intervened and left when they could’nt assist or maybe they did perpetrate this crime because of Mr. Rispoli”s orientation….or the color of his jacket…who knows? ..we won’t know til their caught. I put “married” in quotation marks because being Hetrosexual or homosexual …the person is assumed to be in a monogamous realtionship. Many hetrosexual married men also frequent prostitutes or solicit sex. That is wrong! By doing that they put themselves in harms way along with thier family.
    Marriage is a union between two monogamous persons. Sorry if you disagree….you have that right but I think your reasoning is flawed. Grow up…accept resonsibility for your decisions…..

  49. The “people in the car intervened” – if they killed him, I would say so! I have read three different versions of the events. Could somebody please set the record straight?

  50. I hope the police are carefully questioning his husband about where Mr. Rispoli went at night. If the people closest to you don’t know you . . .

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