String of Attacks Killed One, Left Another in a Coma
By Conor Greene
A Queens teenager will be sentenced next month for his role in a series of violent muggings in Flushing Meadows Park which left one man dead and another in a coma.
Yovanni Rivera, 19, who was living on the streets of Corona at the time of the robberies, will be sentenced on October 6 after pleading in Queens Criminal Court last week to second-degree murder and second-degree attempted murder. He will likely receive a sentence of 25 years to life, according to District Attorney Richard Brown.
An accomplice in several of the robberies, Marcos Polanco, 19, of 43rd Avenue in Corona, pled guilty to first-degree robbery in March and is expected to receive 20 years in prison when he is sentenced next Friday, said Brown.
As part of a pattern of muggings in late 2006 that left residents shaken, Rivera approached Carlos Flores, 40, of Ridgewood as he was walking alone through the park on December 4 and robbed him of $20 cash and a MetroCard before hitting him numerous times with and legs and gashes to the back of his head.
The body of Flores, an immigrant from Ecuador, was found the following morning half-submerged in a park pond near the Long Island Expressway.
In the second brutal attack, Rivera and Polanco approached 33-year-old Ja Woo Park while he was jogging near the Unisphere on the evening of December 25. The men punched, kicked and stomped him, causing severe head trauma before robbing him of cash and the keys to his 2007 Honda van.
Park, a student from Little Neck, was not identified until several weeks after the attack before his family members, who were in South Korea at the time, returned home to Queens and identified him. Park remains in a coma, and under the plea agreement Rivera won’t get additional prison time if his victim dies.
The break in the case came after investigators linked the Honda, found torched on the Horace Harding Expressway, back to Park through the registration. Rivera was badly burned while setting the vehicle on fire, according to authorities. Polanco was arrested at his home after being linked to the crimes after he used the victim’s credit cards.
“The defendant was involved in a string of brutal muggings in and around Flushing Meadow Park that left one man dead and another severely injured and in a coma,” said Brown. “The defendant’s admission of guilt ensures that he is held responsible for his actions and that he will serve a lengthy prison sentence.”
Police say Rivera was known as “Nyquil” because of his ability to knock somebody out with a single punch. The defendants told authorities that the robbed the victims for food money. They were initially charged in four attacks, but were believed to be responsible for as many as ten that took place in the park, including several using the machete.
“Residents of our community should not have to fear being brutally attacked or robbed by thugs whenever they enter one of our parks,” said Brown after the men were arrested. “Those who would commit such heinous crimes are put on notice that my office will vigorously prosecute cases involving attacks on park-goers to the fullest extent of the law.”