In 2006, Yaneley Henriquez stared at her newborn baby, a beautiful girl with chubby cheeks, little toes, and the perfect vision of life.
She was the princess Henriquez always wanted. Her name, Angellyh, meant “an angel.” And she was destined to do great things.
But those dreams were shattered on April 8, 2022.
At about 2 p.m. in front of 510 E. 156th St. across from the South Bronx Education campus in Mott Haven, Jeremiah Ryan, then 17, pulled out a “ghost gun” following a dispute with a rival gang member, and sent off a barrage of bullets that injured three bystanders, including Angellyh Yambo, ultimately ending her life.
Last Friday, families of both Yambo and Ryan met at the Bronx Supreme Court, emotions still raw, as the killer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years to life. Ryan sat in a green shirt, handcuffs behind his back, not making eye contact with Yambo’s family.
“I apologize for my actions,” Ryan, 18, softly said. “I’m sorry.”
Ryan was charged with murder in the second degree. Judge Jeffrey Rosenblueth described the choice Ryan made on April 8, 2022 as a “violent callous act.” He hopes that the time behind bars will allow him to reflect on the choices he made. He is eligible for parole hearings after the 15-year-mark.
In addition to being sentenced to 15 years to life, an order of protection was established for Ryan’s two other shooting victims. He cannot make contact in person, online, or via another person. Doing so will result in him being charged with other crimes.
As Ryan walked out of the courtroom, he did not turn to the cry of a family member saying his name or “I love you.” The sentencing provided bits of justice and closure for the Yambo family, but it could never bring back what Ryan took from them. Before he apologized in front of the court, family members gave victim impact statements through tears and support of one another.
Yambo’s aunt Lisette Camargo described the early emotions family members felt after Yambo’s death: confusion, pain and an overwhelming feeling of agony. Henriquez cried over her baby’s bed, feeling a sense of guilt and failure that she couldn’t protect her baby.
Grandmothers wished that instead it was them who was taken. Little cousins were confused and instead of being sad when they saw Yambo on television they were excited.
The process of having to pick out clothes and flowers, seeing her niece’s face in the casket were too heavy for Camargo. Yambo’s mother pleaded for her daughter to wake up and dance with her.
“Every bone felt broken,” Camargo said.
She described her niece as a shy, loving girl with a beautiful smile. She liked reading, art, and video games and was an after school mentor. Her dream was to be a doctor.
Camargo criticized Ryan for showing a lack of remorse throughout the process, and time after time declining opportunities to show he would take responsibility for his actions.
“You have broken so many hearts,” Camargo said to Ryan.
Mary Hernandez, Yambo’s great aunt, described the parallels between Ryan and Yambo. Both endured abuse and traumas, but rather than respond in violence Yambo chose to pick up books and gain knowledge, she said. Yambo was an honor student with dreams of saving lives.
Henriquez described the day Yambo was born, holding her daughter in her arms, and instantly having her heart stolen. The vision of seeing her baby graduate, marry, and have children of her own would never come though.
There were times where Henriquez considered taking her own life. Having a job near the city morgue, she was constantly forced to think about her daughter in that body bag, blood all over her body, naked without any privacy, pictures being taken of her autopsy, organs being taken out. She had no name, just a number.
“Now you have a number,” Henriquez said to Ryan.
After the sentencing, Yambo’s family held a press conference outside of the court, holding a banner together with Yambo’s face and words that read: “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are outrage (sic) as those who are.”
Henriquez thanked the community for their support throughout the process. District Attorney Darcel Clark, whose office helped bring the case about, was present.
“That was a terrible day,” Clark said of April 8, 2022. “And they should not be standing here today. They should be celebrating the fact that she’s in school once again pursuing her dream to be a doctor, to being the vibrant young woman that she was. But instead she was shot down by another youth, 17 years old.”
The apology Ryan gave to the Yambo family meant little to Henriquez.
“He wasn’t remorseful at the beginning, and he wanted to show remorse at the end,” Henriquez said.
“For me, it didn’t matter. You know, if you do something, first thing you should do is apologize. You don’t do it at the end.”
Henriquez described the bright future her daughter had. She loved makeup, was outspoken, and was loved because of her sassiness.
“We also lost that one person that was a future to this country,” Henriquez said.
Yambo had a dream of saving lives as a doctor and being famous. Though it isn’t in the way she or her family would have liked it, Yambo’s death has already spread awareness and ignited change when it comes to gun violence.
U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres has proposed legislation that would ban “ghost guns” and expand the perimeter of gun-free school zones. The name of the proposed act? The Angellyh Yambo Gun Free Zone Expansion Act.
Yambo also had a street co-named after her near 3340 Bailey Ave. last April, entitled Angellyh Marieh Yambo Way. In addition, Yambo’s aunt, Hernandez, started the Angellyh Yambo Foundation. The foundation has the goal of combating gun violence and bullying.
“We have to end the gun violence,” Hernandez told The Riverdale Press. “We have to start somewhere. We have to start from the youth. Let’s start with the youth as well with the schools… We’re going to divert those kids who are already out their handling guns and we can divert them and make that change. Invert them into being successful.”
Hernandez wants Yambo to be remembered as a hard worker who was studious and volunteered her time after school every Friday.
“She was ambitious. She wanted so much out of life and she always gave out to the community. She was giving back to the community,” Hernandez said.
“And I want the same for the youth, the other youths. Because they have that opportunity. They could have that. I want them to know that they have the ability to go the right path.”