The migrant murdered the Randall’s Island Humanitarian Emergency Response and Relief Center (HERRC) last weekend was slain during a brawl over the victim’s girlfriend, police officials said Tuesday.
Authorities believe 24-year-old Dafren Canizalez was killed in a group attack inside the tent city’s cafeteria on Jan. 6 after he confronted another asylum seeker for speaking to his girlfriend.
Police say Canizalez punched 27-year-old Moises Coronado that evening, then brandished a knife. Coronado then retreated to his sleeping area, where he picked up his own knife, then recruited two other shelter residents — 27-year-old Anthony Navas and 33-year-old Ferneys Horta — to back him up.
At about 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, the trio confronted Canizalez in the dining area, with all three swinging knives at their target. The melee spilled from the cafeteria to the outside where the deadly stabbing took place.
“He is stabbed one time in the chest. The wound is about four to six inches deep. It hits his aorta, and he bleeds to death,” NYPD Chief of Detectives Joseph Kenny said.
EMS rushed Canizalez to Harlem Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:13 p.m., less than an hour after the attack unfolded.
Chief Kenny commended security at the HERRC for both attempting to save Canizalez’s life while also apprehending Coronado.
“My mother didn’t raise a punk. I wasn’t gonna let anybody punch me in the face,” Coronado allegedly told police after being cuffed for the murder.
Police say all individuals involved, including the victim’s girlfriend, hailed from Venezuela. None of the suspects had a prior criminal history; police do not believe Canizalez or Coronado knew each other in their native country.
Coronado, Navas, and Horta were charged with murder and gang assault.