MERIDEN — The 20-year-old man whom police identified Tuesday as the victim of a downtown shooting this weekend was himself best friends with another man murdered almost three years ago.
Jyineez Cruz, who was found shot several times just before 2 a.m. Sunday at 55 West Main St., often had his friend Aaron Ormsby over to his house at 130 Foster St., said Cruz’s aunt, Brandy Williams.
The 21-year-old Ormsby was shot several times behind that house and later died at MidState Medical Center on Jan. 17, 2019. Joseph Stokes, 21, of Hartford, was arrested last month in connection with the murder, police have said.
Williams said that she didn’t know Ormsby very well, but knew that he liked to often visit the home and talk to Cruz’s father even when Jyineez wasn’t around.
Both, Williams suggested, were victims of the chaotic violence that often swirls around, and sometimes claims, some of the youth of Meriden.
Cruz “was trying to grow up in a small town. I am not going to say that he was an angel, but none of us are, especially at that age when you are trying to find yourself,” said Williams, who has almost completed her college studies in psychology.
“You make all kinds of mistakes and hang out with the wrong people, but as far as me and my family go, he was always respectful,” Williams, a Meriden native, said during the telephone interview from Anchorage, Alaska, where she moved in 2020 to help her daughter with newborn twins.
Police found Cruz amid several people when they arrived. Officers were responding to a report of gunshots fired at nearby 55 Grove St. Paramedics arrived at the scene, but Cruz was pronounced dead, Lt. Darrin McKay said in a statement.
Cruz had recently enrolled to study auto mechanics at a local school and did construction work for family friends. A big man, at an inch or two taller than 6 feet, Cruz had a booming laugh, an infectious smile and some backbone, Williams said.
“He was fearless. Fearlessness runs in our family,” Williams said. “He was not a troublemaker but he did not let anybody take advantage of him or bully him. He protected himself.”
More than a decade older than she is, Cruz was the softest of soft touches to his youngest sister, Legacy, and babysat her often, Williams said.
“She was the only one who could boss him around. She was the only one who could get away with talking junk to him,” Williams said. “She was a girl, she was his sister. You know what I mean? She was the baby.”
Cruz would have celebrated his 21st birthday today, Williams said.
“If he was given another chance, I know it would have worked out for him,” she said.
Police are asking anyone with any information about the incident to contact Detective Ben Pellegrini at 203-630-6297 or firstname.lastname@example.org.