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Reading man gunned down just feet away from sleeping children

By John Craven, Reporter, JCraven@wfmz.com
Published On: Apr 05 2014 02:59:36 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 07 2014 05:31:40 AM CDT

Reading homicide

READING, Pa. -

Reading Police say someone gunned a man down just feet away from his sleeping children -- just days after he was released from jail.

It happened early Saturday morning at the Glenside Homes, a Reading Housing Authority complex. In an exclusive interview with 69 News, the victim's ex-girlfriend said he identified the alleged triggerman to paramedics moments before he died.

So far, police said no arrests are imminent.

The Berks County coroner identified the victim as Joseph "Sonny" Torres.

Torres was shot in the torso with a semi-automatic handgun and died in surgery at Reading Hospital, according to Reading Police Sgt. John Solecki. The shooting happened just before 3:30 a.m. Saturday.

It happened right outside Torres' ex-girlfriend's apartment on Avenue D. He and his children were staying with her family.

"The worst part of it all was his kids were sleeping up here," said Tiffany Bender, "and I had to wake up a two, a three, and a five year old asking where he was, with crime scene investigators and police and detectives outside."

Hours after the killing, a stunned Bender was still wearing Torres' sweatshirt.

"All I know is, the man that I was trying to be with opened my door and told me to call the police because he was shot," she said.

Torres had just been released from jail this week and was trying to turn his life around, according to Bender.

Court records indicate Torres pleaded guilty to several drug charges in 2011, and was re-incarcerated in 2012 and 2013 for parole violations.

Torres had gone to a party earlier, according to Bender and her family. When he returned home, she said a longtime friend called him and asked to come over.

"I told him I didn't want anyone else over and he he decided to invite the person over, and then they were arguing a little bit, and then they went outside, and I heard a pop, and he opened my door and told me to call the police -- that he's been shot," said Bender.

Police said nearby security cameras are helping the investigation. It's not clear what the argument was about, Solecki and Bender said separately.

Torres' killing happened just one block from where a man was gunned down in a playground crowded with kids. That murder happened almost three years ago to the day. Neighbors around Glenside are once again rattled.

"This just happened outside of my daughter's window," said parent Amy Castillo. "I wish I could let my child run even in front of the house this summer, and I wouldn't even feel comfortable doing that."

Neighbor Angel Pagan said violence is becoming too common in Reading.

"We can't control them," he said. "If they want to go to jail for murder, that's them. If they're screwing up their life, we can't do nothing about it."

Torres' killing is actually only the second homicide this year in Reading. Four people were recently charged with beating a homeless man to death at a Penn Street laundromat in January.