The man suspected of gunning down an Anchor Bar cook last Friday evening has been in custody since Saturday, and Buffalo homicide detectives are continuing to build a case against him, according to acquaintances of the victim.
Freddie Dizon had provided the name of Jorge L. Suarez before he had died, sources familiar with the investigation said.
Suarez, 25, who at some point had worked at the Anchor Bar, was allegedly stalking Dizon, who two days before he was killed had posted comments on Facebook accusing Suarez of child molestation.
“Go touch ur own kids (expletive) molester,” Dizon wrote May 18. “Do sumthing (sic) U seen me out here every (expletive) day.”
Dizon’s acquaintances said he had gone to authorities to report that one of his three young children had been molested by Suarez.
The friends said the stalking by Suarez began after the social media posts.
Dizon’s molestation complaint did not end in an arrest, according to relatives, who added that Erie County Child Protective Services workers were contacted, as well. County officials declined to comment.
Buffalo police officials Thursday declined to comment on why they have not released information that someone was in custody so soon after the killing. Law enforcement sources said that because the gunman was wearing a mask, they did not want to risk endangering the investigation before someone is charged.
Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda and Mayor Byron W. Brown earlier this week reiterated previous police statements that it was a targeted shooting. Derenda also had stressed that progress was being made in the investigation, but that it would serve no purpose to have the investigation reported in the media before it was completed.
Suarez is in the Erie County Holding Center, detained on a parole violation. He was released earlier this year from state prison for a conviction in 2010, when he threatened a West Side convenience store worker with a handgun when stealing alcoholic beverages.
In addition to having worked with Dizon, 32, at the Anchor Bar, 1047 Main St. – birthplace of the Buffalo chicken wing – Suarez is a shirttail relative of Dizon and they have known each other since childhood from the West Side.
Dizon’s closest relatives said they could not comment on aspects of the investigation, but expressed gratitude to homicide detectives for their continuing efforts to make an arrest.
Last Friday afternoon, before walking from his West Side home to the Anchor Bar for work, Dizon told his mother he had just received a death threat. A friend also told The Buffalo News that Dizon had told him Suarez had driven past his house that same afternoon as a passenger in a car. This past Monday night, Gregory Ramos, identified by police sources as providing transportation to Suarez possibly in connection with the killing, was arrested on Grand Island following a car and foot chase involving several police agencies.
After Dizon told his mother about the death threat, Herminia Gonzalez said, “I asked him, ‘Would you like a ride to work?’ ”
Dizon, she said, answered, “No, mom. I’m OK.”
“I said, ‘I love you,’ and he turned the corner, and that was the last I saw him,” Gonzalez said.
A cousin, who also works at the Anchor Bar, told The News that he had planned to drive Dizon to work Friday after receiving a phone call from him saying Suarez had been stalking him.
“Freddie told me, ‘He keeps passing me. I just want to let you know in case something happens,’ ” the cousin said, asking that his name be withheld.
The cousin said he had gotten into his car and went looking for Dizon, driving on the streets he normally walked on his way to work, but could not find him.
“I went into work, and he was there. Freddie said, ‘I’m OK.’ I went home then for my kids,” the cousin said.
At work, fellow cook Ray Hogue said Dizon mentioned something about being followed by someone. Dizon also told Hogue that someone wanted to hurt him and that it may have something do with one of Dizon’s children. When the gunfire broke out in the kitchen, Hogue was grazed in the back by a bullet or a fragment.
Now Dizon’s relatives say plans are being made to relocate his children out of the area in the hopes of giving them a new beginning. A fundraising goal of $10,000 for the victim’s family has been set at GoFundMe – gofundme.com/pxm9dmmk – and $4,000 has been raised so far.
“We don’t want to say where we are moving them, but we are moving his family to try and get them a better life,” said Christina Ladd, a cousin who offered prayers for Dizon during Thursday’s funeral service at Lombardo Funeral Home on Linwood Avenue.
Hundreds of friends had come to the funeral and later to his burial at Mount Hope Cemetery in West Seneca.
As the mourners sat in their vehicles waiting to follow the hearse carrying Dizon’s coffin, the parking lot of the funeral home throbbed with rap songs by Dizon and his band members – recordings played on car stereos – as a tribute to him.
The words of the songs, sang out in the fierce staccato of rap, might not have been a traditional homage to a dead loved one, but hearing Dizon’s voice brought tears.
“Up in the world so high, you’re my diamond in the sky. You’re my life. … Baby, you’re always on my mind,” Dizon rapped in his song “Star Light.”
And there were memories recalled by the mourners of what a devoted father Dizon was, raising his three children often as a single parent with help from his mother.
“I just want my brother’s legacy to be about how he was loved in this community and how good he was to his kids,” said Danny Gomez, who set up the GoFundMe website.
Gomez, a Utah resident, is a former employee of the Anchor Bar, where Dizon’s fellow workers carried on without him Thursday afternoon as he was buried.
The workers said they were not permitted to discuss the tragedy, but the looks on their faces when Dizon’s name was mentioned said it all – heartbreak.
Also heartbroken was Kathy McCormack, an off-duty Ontario Provincial Police sergeant who was having dinner in the Anchor Bar last Friday evening with her husband, Rondi Craig, a Toronto police officer, and their 18-year-old daughter.
McCormack, reached by phone Thursday shortly after Dizon’s funeral, told of the harrowing sound of four gunshots coming from the kitchen as the family was finishing their dinner just after 7 p.m.
“We recognized the sound right away. We basically threw our daughter under the table,” McCormack said, explaining that they shielded her with their own bodies, not knowing whether a stray bullet would strike or if the shooting would spread into the dining room. “I didn’t know at the time if it was a targeted shooting.”
But seconds later, it became clear when Dizon lurched into the dining room and outside the restaurant’s main doors.
The husband and wife went into police mode. They wanted to save the gravely wounded man.
“I’m shot. I’m shot,” Dizon said as he staggered around.
“We sat him down on a planter. He said he was shot in the arm, but it was the chest. Rondi started talking to him saying, ‘You’ll be okay.’ I went back in and asked a waitress for towels. Rondi put them on the wounds and applied pressure,” McCormack said.
Like Dizon, Craig was covered in blood. Dizon’s co-workers, McCormack said, were in a state of shock and weeping as they stood by.
“When they took him away on the stretcher, I really hoped he’d live,” McCormack said. “My heart went out to the family when I heard he didn’t make it.”
McCormack and Craig, who had been on a family shopping trip to the Buffalo area before going to Craig’s favorite Buffalo restaurant, later gave a statement to city police, putting them in something of a reverse situation, since as cops they are normally the ones asking questions of witnesses.
Together, they have more than half a century of police work, and McCormack comes from a police family that in Toronto is known as the Kennedys of law enforcement – a reference to the Kennedys of American politics. Her father, Bill McCormack, had served for a number years as Toronto’s police chief.
But what happened to them, sharing those final moment of Dizon’s life with him, has touched them deeply and they too mourned his passing, McCormack said.
And so they understand the grief-stricken words expressed by Dizon’s mother moments after she leaned into her son’s coffin and kissed him over and over.
“A part of my life has been taken from me and can never be replaced,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t have my son, and my grandkids don’t have their father.”