A New Jersey man died protecting a 4-year-old girl when rival gangs got into a shootout at the bodega where he worked, his family said.
Wilson (Miguel) Valdez, 31, was inside the Brother’s Supermarket in Plainfield with a pregnant customer and her 4-year-old daughter when two gangs began fighting outside Thursday afternoon, police told NJ.com.
A gang member ran inside the store as thugs continued to shoot at him, police said.
The little girl dashed toward the front of the store to see the shootout. When Valdez ran after her, he was struck by a bullet through the glass window.
Two suspects sped away from the scene in an SUV and crashed a few blocks away, allowing police to apprehend them, authorities said. Abdul Ward, 23, was charged with murder, eluding police and weapons offenses. Arthur Negron, 24, faces multiple weapons charges.
They and another pedestrian who was hit during the crash were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.
People who knew Valdez said they were not surprised Valdez gave his life to save a child. He was a smart man who worked hard in a rough neighborhood, they said.
“Oh, my son,” customer Evelyn Onyeyirim said, crying when she learned of Valdez’s death.” I would tell him he was too smart and say, ‘You go back to school, you don’t stay here.’ I can’t believe Miguel is gone.”
Harry DeCosey Jr said he has known Valdez since they were teens. The bodega worker, who had an 8-year-old son, was good with kids and would always talk to DeCosey’s little girl or give her free candy when she came to the store.
“They are such a positive family, it kills me to see them like this,” DeCosey Jr. said. “He would always keep you laughing.”