With much of his family stricken by a rare eye cancer, Ramiro Izquierdo served as the live-in caretaker for his blind grandmother and brother in Miami.
On a balmy August evening, Izquierdo carefully guided his blind brother to a Liberty City grocery store to buy pastries, soap and shampoo — only to be confronted by a pistol-wielding robber.
Izquierdo, 20, died in a volley of bullets. And the gunman, police say, was just 14 years old.
Miami-Dade prosecutors on Tuesday formally charged Juaquan Hall, an Edison Middle School student, with second-degree murder and two counts of attempted armed robbery.
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“He was such a good kid. He never did anything to anybody,” Elizabeth Rivera, 43, the slain man’s mother, said after Tuesday’s arraignment hearing. “I just keep asking myself, ‘Why.’”
Hall is being held in the juvenile wing of the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center. His case will likely go to a grand jury this week for a possible indictment for first-degree murder, prosecutor Alicia Priovolos told a judge during Tuesday’s hearing.
Through his lawyer, Hall pleaded not guilty on Tuesday.
Attorney Rene Palomino said he is reviewing the evidence, including interviewing “numerous witnesses” who might have an alibi for the teen. “We’re in the process of looking into that,” Palomino said.
Hall, who at 14 is already a father, is one of an array of juveniles arrested for unrelated murders this past summer.
In August, Miami police arrested 15-year-old Khalib Newkirk on allegations that he shot and killed a 10-year-old boy while opening fire on a gang rival. One month earlier, 16-year-old Rhyheim Woodard was charged after allegedly pushing a homeless man into the Miami River, where he drowned.
Also in July, police said, a group of bored teenagers raped and fatally beat a mentally disabled woman outside an abandoned South Miami-Dade home. So far, only a 16-year-old named Jeremiah Williams has been arrested and is awaiting trial.
As for Izquierdo, his death followed a family life shaped by a rare disease. His relatives suffer from “bilateral retinoblastoma,” a hereditary eye cancer that begins at childhood — a condition that Izquierdo himself did not get.
But the disease cost his 61-year-old grandmother her vision when she was an infant. One of his sisters died of the cancer when she was only 9 years old.
His older brother, Javier, 22, is also blind from the disease — he enjoyed vision for only the first eight years of his life and today also suffers from glaucoma.
While Izquierdo’s vision was intact, he suffered from a learning disability that led him to drop out of Flanagan High in Pembroke Pines.
But Izquierdo had a knack for electronics. He planned to earn his GED and, along with his older brother, one day start up a business creating custom computers, his mother said.
“Him and Javier always talked about it,” said Rivera, who was also stricken by the eye cancer and raised her children as a single mother.
The two brothers had moved in with Izquierdo’s grandmother, who got government-funded “Section 8” housing in Liberty City. She had only moved to the rough-and-tumble neighborhood in January.
It was not unusual for Javier — with Ramiro guiding him — to walk to the nearby supermarket for groceries.
On the evening of Aug. 11, the two were returning from the store when two robbers confronted the brother in the 2100 block of Northwest 57th Street just before 7 p.m. The brothers “did not comply” when the robbers “demanded property,” according to an arrest warrant.
In the moments after the gunfire, Miami-Dade police officers immediately detained a 20-year-old man who was running from the scene, holding the .380-caliber pistol believed to have been used in the shooting.
The man told police that his friend, “Quan,” had thrust the gun on him while escaping on a bicycle. The gunman had earlier told the man that he was “going to commit a lick,” street slang for a robbery.
An independent eyewitness confirmed the man had nothing to do with the robbery — and identified Hall as the gunman, according to an arrest warrant by Miami-Dade Detective Michael Scott.
A second suspect has yet to be charged.
Later that evening, Javier had to call his mother, who had just arrived to her job cleaning medical offices, to deliver the news. Family from as far away as Orlando, Texas and Connecticut immediately flew to Miami to mourn.
“It’s really taken a toll on my life,” Rivera said. “I don’t eat well. I don’t sleep well.”