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Tragedy Strikes in a Bronx Bodega: The Cleveland Smith Shooting

In a heartbreaking incident that unfolded recently, the Bronx witnessed a shocking and disturbing event that has left the community in shock. On a seemingly ordinary day, Cleveland Smith, aged 35, found himself running for his life within the confines of a neighborhood bodega. His desperate bid for safety would ultimately end in tragedy, as he was pursued by two assailants, ultimately losing his life in a place that should have offered refuge.

The incident took place on East 175th Street near the Grand Concourse in Mount Hope, a neighborhood in the Bronx. Two men spotted Smith around 5:10 p.m. and began chasing him. They cornered him inside a local bodega, where the horrific events unfolded. Smith was shot in the torso by the gunmen, and despite the efforts of medics who rushed him to St. Barnabas Hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Surveillance footage from the bodega captured the heart-wrenching moments as Smith sprinted into the store, frantically seeking safety. The video shows him navigating through the store’s aisles, past fruit and vegetables, past the cash machine, and past an ATM, all while trying to escape his pursuers. Tragically, the video also captured the gunman’s arrival, and in a matter of seconds, Smith’s life was forever changed.

What makes this incident even more disturbing is the presence of bodega clerks who, out of fear for their own lives, hid behind the counter and in a cold box refrigerator as the violence unfolded around them. Their harrowing experience serves as a stark reminder of the dangers that store clerks face in neighborhoods plagued by increasing violence.

Advocates for bodega workers have long called for measures to address these safety concerns. They argue that incidents like Smith’s death highlight the urgent need for “Safe Haven Bodegas” — a program that could protect individuals seeking refuge from violence in these neighborhood stores. This proposal is reminiscent of the tragic case of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, a 15-year-old boy who met a similarly horrific fate in a different Bronx bodega back in 2018.

In the face of such senseless violence, the call for change grows louder. We must collectively address these issues and work towards making our communities safer for everyone. Incidents like the Cleveland Smith shooting serve as painful reminders of the work that still needs to be done to ensure that no one has to fear for their life when seeking refuge in their neighborhood bodega.

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