Young anti-violence activist murdered in Kensington, investigation continues

The family of Manuel “Chino” Sanchez (pictured in middle portrait), from left: brother-in-law Greg Buccerino, sister Jasmine, mother Luz, sisters Nana, Kathy, Lisa, Ashley (with 2-year-old Jenna) and Brenda. SAM NEWHOUSE / STAR PHOTO

Manuel Enrique “Chino” Sanchez died on Dec. 20 at the hands of two gun-toting men. He was also a community activist working to end violence in Philadelphia. Sanchez’s death, his family says, will hopefully shed light on what needs to be done to make the city a more peaceful place.

With gun violence at the forefront of the nation’s conscience, a local family is reeling from the loss of their son and brother, a recent victim of the epidemic of gun violence here in Philadelphia.

He was also an anti-violence activist.

Manuel Enrique “Chino” Sanchez, 25, who was also a hip-hop musician, was murdered on Dec. 20 at 1 a.m. in front of his home at 2023 Castor Ave. during an armed robbery. He had gone out to get a pack of cigarettes.

Because Sanchez refused to participate in illegal activity, and wanted to help people by stopping street violence, his family said, they hope that his legacy may be one of peace.

“He wasn’t out there doing what these other kids were doing. He always said, ‘Mama, I’m gonna get rich and bring you all out of this ghetto,” recalled Manuel Sanchez’s mother, Luz Sanchez, last week.

Sanchez was passionate about music and community, and was trying to make it as a hip hop artist while participating in anti-violence efforts, including his work with the group, Men United for a Better Philadelphia.

Sanchez and a friend were coming back from buying cigarettes when they were held up at gunpoint by two hooded men. Sanchez’s family said that according to his friend, his last words were a request for mercy to his killer.

“We don’t gotta do this,” Sanchez allegedly said as he stepped toward the shooter, partly blocking his friend, they said.

Then the shooter fired, hitting Sanchez in the chest, fatally wounding him. His friend was also hit by a bullet but survived.

“We want justice,” said Brenda Sanchez, Manuel’s sister. “We ain’t gonna stop until we get it.”

The murder is unsolved. The Philadelphia Police Department Office of Media Relations/Public Affairs office did not respond to requests for an update on the case by press-time.

Among Sanchez’s family members, including young nieces and nephews who begin weeping when they see their aunts and grandmother cry over their lost uncle, the investigation is ongoing, unavoidable and constant.

“Why? That’s what I want to know,” said Lisa Sanchez, also Manuel’s sister. “Why’d you take his life? You stole an innocent life of someone who wouldn’t even fight back.”

The wounds from the night of murder still are very fresh. Sanchez had moved to the neighborhood a few months prior to be on his own, and also to keep an eye on his niece, Lisa’s daughter. He was living with her, her boyfriend, and their baby.

“I got the call,” Lisa recalled, her voice breaking. “My daughter was like, ‘They killed him. They shot him. Some guys tried to stick them up, and they shot him.’ ”

Sanchez’s niece saw the commotion outside and ran downstairs, where she found him dying, the family said.

Paramedics responding to the scene brought Sanchez to Temple University Hospital, but it was too late.

“I’m still in disbelief. When it hits me, I can’t stop crying,” Lisa said. “We sit back and watch this [kind of thing] on the news. We never think it’s going to be us.”

Sanchez’s sisters and mother remembered him as a quiet mama’s boy with a big heart, a slightly obsessive knack for cleaning, and the habit of constantly writing lyrics and notes for his music from the age of 11 on.

They recalled his moments of spontaneity — like just weeks before the shooting, how he ran upstairs from the basement, dancing and pretending to jam out on guitar.

“Chino was all about stopping the violence,” his sister Brenda said. “He was writing a song about the kids in Newtown.”

Brenda’s husband, Greg Bucceroni, is following the investigation closely. Bucceroni, also a community activist, said he plans to put together a wanted flier with information about Sanchez’s killer, and canvass the neighborhood where the crime occurred, knocking on doors and asking for information. He is seeking assistance with these efforts from local elected officials and other community groups.

“Here was a young guy doing good,” Bucceroni said. “He was in the beginning stages of what he wanted to do as a community activist.”

Bucceroni said Chino’s work included patrolling neighborhoods to quell street violence, interpreting Spanish as a victim advocate, and passing out fliers to spread awareness about crimes that were committed.

“He would just say, ‘Dunkin Donuts on me?’ Or, ‘Pappi boy, Dunkin Donuts on you?’” Bucceroni recalled. That was Chino’s way of saying he was ready to work the streets all night.

His family has planned a fundraiser at The New Palladium at 229 W. Allegheny Avenue on February 22 to support the efforts to find Chino’s killer.

Lisa has started a Facebook group, called “Crime Has No Color.” Brenda has a page on Causes.com, inviting people to pledge to help “stop the violence” in Philadelphia.

But in the meantime, they’ll be clinging to what good they can find in the hope that Sanchez’s death may shed a little more light on gun violence in Philadelphia, and maybe lead to change.

“I know my brother’s death is gonna bring something positive,” Lisa said.

To submit a tip to the Philadelphia Police Department, call 215–686-TIPS (8477) or text PPDTIP (773847).

Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at 215–354–3124 or at snewhouse@bsmphilly.com.