New York Daily News
Bullies didn’t frighten teen slay victim
Pals not surprised he stood up to B’klyn gunman
Dereck Chen hated bullies, and wasn’t afraid to stand up to them.
That’s why his friends said they weren’t surprised when Chen fought back against an armed man during a robbery in a Brooklyn wholesale store’s parking lot — a battle that took his life.
Cops said Chen, 19, was riding in an elevator with his three friends in the parking garage of a BJ’s Wholesale Club off Shore Parkway in Bensonhurst on Thursday night when a teen gunman got on and announced the stickup.
“He was like, ‘Give me all that s--t’ and he pulled out his gun,” said one of Chen’s friends who was in the elevator with him.
The friend, 15, said they handed over their stuff, which included a fanny pack and two backpacks, one of which belonged to Chen.
When the elevator doors opened again, Chen lunged at the gunman.
“It was the first floor,” said the friend, who did not want to be named. “There were lots of people there. He didn’t think he was going to shoot him.
“But he goes for his bag, and the guy shot him.”
“We all ran down the block and called the cops,” recounted Chen’s friend. “And then we saw him on the floor like that. The s--t happened so quickly. We were just there having fun.”
Chen was hit in the buttocks and upper body. Medics rushed rushed him to NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn, where he was pronounced dead.
Police soon arrested a suspect they identified as Edino Tzul, 18, of Bensonhurst. He was charged with murder, robbery and weapons charges, and was ordered to Rikers Island to await trial.
The parking lot rooftop at the BJ’s store has a commanding view of Gravesend Bay. Chen’s friend said they liked to go there sometimes and just hang out.
Chen loved to facilitate adventures with friends. He figured out what time his pals would all be free, and picked a new place in the city to explore, said another buddy, Jason Colocho, 19, who was not with Chen during the robbery.
The last time the friends got together was a few weeks ago, at Manhattan’s Pier 36, an event space facility off the FDR Drive.
“We just had a relaxed day and enjoyed the view,” Colocho said, “Dereck always wanted to be sure we enjoyed the moment and had an impactful day.”
As much as Chen loved to play games and fool around, he was serious about life, and not wasting time, Colocho said. Chen was the class clown, his friends said, and kept everybody laughing. But he seemed to have this sense that life was short, and that they needed to take advantage of every moment they had.
During their last outing, Chen and his friends talked about entering adulthood and making life decisions.
“We talked about how we’re older now and the plans to build our future,” Colocho said. “And no matter what, to just always be there for each other.”
When they met, Colocho’s circle of friends was mostly filled with other Mexican-American kids. But they quickly adopted Chen as one of their own, joking that they considered him Mexican as well. Colocho said they even taught him some Spanish.
Chen’s silliness is what drew Colocho to be friends with him, he said.
“His laugh was contagious,” he said. One time when Colocho found his friend in the closed Key Foods store where they worked together doing handstands and cartwheels with the store’s former manager.
During the laughter, Chen fell over.
“It was clear that he was in pain,” Colocho said. “But he would never complain — he just laughed.”
Malik Malik, whose son was also in the elevator with Chen, said his son is doing well.
“He was in tears, crying nonstop for the first day,” Malik said, “He was really scared.”
Malik said he has noticed a rise in crime since the pandemic.
“I don’t know what people do,” he said. “It’s crazy.”
He told his son, “If you want to go anywhere, let me know and I will take you.” “It’s very hard at this age,” Malik said,
“He says, ‘Don’t worry dad, it’s OK.’ “Right now, he is OK. But later?”