The seven daughters of a slain Queens bodega owner spent Father's Day weeping for him at the scene of the botched robbery that ended his life.
"We have no place else to be," said the eldest, Belkis Cruz-Seenath, 30, at the South Ozone Park store where her beloved father, Bolivar Cruz, was fatally shot in the face trying to protect two of her sisters during last Monday's hold-up.
Her youngest sister, Adriana, 9, welled up with tears as she said, "I'm his littlest daughter. Who's going to protect me now?
"I want him to see me grow up. I wanted him to see me graduate," Adriana said, starting to openly weep. "Why did they have to take his life? Why didn't they just take the money? I'm his little princess. He always did everything for me. He spoiled me."
Belkis, in a particularly heartbreaking note to her dad, talked about what it meant to be the oldest girl in their family.
"Remember before I was born? You tried so hard to get me, and then you finally got me. Your first baby girl?" Belkis wrote.
"Remember when I was a little girl? You bought me my first skates, you would carry me on your lap and never hesitate to make me feel better. 'I love you,' is what you would say.
"I know you see me crying, I know, Daddy . . . I know you would want me to stop, but all these tears I cry I wish you could wipe away . . . If I don't stop crying, forgive me, Daddy. I just love you so much."
The girls also penned an open letter to their dad titled simply, "Our Hero."
"You'd say, 'Move forward and be happy because I'm right beside you, girls, through these hard times. I won't ever leave any of your sides.' You'd then probably say a corny joke and let us know that you always loved us and always will," the note said.
Cruz's 24-year-old daughter, Angelina, said, "I hope the killers do get caught. One way or the other, they'll have to pay.
"Every morning, I have to wake up and realize he is gone forever and he is never coming back because a savage took his life away," said Angelina, one of the sisters her dad was trying to protect when he pulled a gun on the armed robbers.
Cruz's wake is being held from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. today at the James Romanelli-Stephen Funeral Home at 89-01 Rockaway Boulevard.
It is the 17th birthday of his daughter Jalissa, who - like each of her sisters - penned her own note to her father.
His body will be shipped back to his native Dominican Republic for burial tomorrow.
The advocacy group Hispanics Across America and the Guardian Angels announced that they were jointly posting a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Cruz's killer.
AM New York: Slain Bodega Owner's Family Awaits Justice by Matthew Chayes...Funeral services have helped the children of a bodega owner shot dead in a botched robbery say goodbye, but they will feel no closure until the men responsible for his death are in prison, they said Monday outside his wake.
"Once they're doing the time that they deserve, then I guess I'll have a little closure."
"That pain will stay there until I get closure knowing that those guys who did this to our lives and our father get caught," said Angelina Cruz, 24, one of Bolivar Cruz's daughters.
The emotional day for the family came a week after Cruz was shot in the face in a botched robbery of his Kennedy Mini Market in South Ozone Park.
Cruz, 53, who later died from the wounds, pulled out his own gun during the stick-up in an attempt to protect two of his daughters and another employee who were working in the store at the time, the police and his family said.
A coalition of the Guardian Angels and Hispanics Across America have offered a $10,000 bounty to help catch Cruz's killers, in addition to $2,000 being offered by Crime Stoppers.
The shopkeeper's body is being flown Tuesday to the Dominican Republic, where Cruz will be buried in the nation of his birth after a funeral service there.
"That was his last wish. He wanted to go to DR," another of Cruz's daughters, Jalissa, said outside the funeral parlor. Jalissa Cruz was working at the store with Angelina the night her father was shot, but she had gone to the bathroom just before the robbery began.
Jalissa spent her 17th birthday Monday mourning her father.
The fate of the bodega, which remained shuttered early Monday, is unclear, and several of Cruz's relatives said the family would probably sell the store.
"We're just going to give up the business," said Cruz's eldest daughter, Belkis Cruz-Seenath, 30, who worked in her father's store for almost five years in her early 20s.
Mourners and deliverymen yesterday brought flowers to the James Romanelli-Stephen Funeral Home on Rockaway Boulevard, where family and friends paid their respects to Cruz at his open coffin all day in a small chapel.
"Right now, I feel numb, to tell you the truth," Cruz-Seenath said. "I wish this wasn't real."
7Online.com: Hundreds Turn Out at Wake for Murdered Bodega Owner by Eyewitness News Team...
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Hundreds of mourners are turning out to say goodbye to a beloved bodega owner shot and killed by three masked gunmen at his store in Queens. Bolivar Cruz was a father of eight and was well known in the community.
Eyewitness News reporter Joe Torres has more on how Cruz is being remembered.
The tears flowed freely today for Bolivar Cruz.
Less than 24 hours after Father's Day, his seven daughters marched into an Ozone Park funeral home to say goodbye to their beloved daddy. Thirty year-old Belkis Cruz-Seenath is the oldest.
"Right now, I'm in a lot of pain and agony because I will never see my father again," she said. "And that's the most hurtful part of everything."
It was one week ago when three armed robbers walked into Cruz's South Ozone Park bodega and demanded money. In an effort to protect two daughters in the store, the 53-year-old reached for his licensed weapon. The gunmen shot him in the face.
Daughter Jalissa was in the bodega at the time. Today is her 17th birthday.
"Usually, I would spend my birthday with my dad helping him in the store," she said. "Right now, it's a funeral, saying my last goodbyes on my birthday. But at least seeing him makes my birthday complete."
Investigators have made no arrests in the case. There is a $10,000 reward for anyone providing police with information leading to the killers. Friends and neighbors at Cruz's wake this afternoon still found it hard to believe his is gone.
"You would always find him with a smile, treating them the right way," neighbor Jose Diaz said. "There was no difference in people for him."
"This guy was a pillar in the community," family friend Christina Kautz said. "He did nothing to deserve this. All he did was step out to protect his children. What good man wouldn't step out to protect their children?"
After the wake, the seven sisters will meet with their only brother to carry out their father's final wish: That he be buried in his home country of the Dominican Republic.
NY1.com:Wake Held For Queens Bodega Owner Killed Last Week...
Friends and family gathered Monday afternoon to remember the Queens bodega owner shot to death during a robbery in his store last week.
The wake for Bolivar Cruz, 53, took place Monday at the James Romanelli-Stephen Funeral Home in Queens. He leaves behind seven daughters.
"It's still shocking to this day, 'cause it's like, you know, two minutes before everything is fine. You know, you're happy, and two minutes later it's just, his life is gone. It was really hard for me," said daughter Jalisa Cruz, who turned 16 Monday.
"It's very sad, you know," said daughter Belkis Cruz Seenath. "We all came together and we prayed for him. It was our first Father's Day without him, so it was just crazy."
The daughters tried to put on a brave face outside the funeral home, but inside, the grief was unbearable for the whole family.
"Inside it's very sad. You know, they can't even hold their mother." said family friend Marie Robert. "It's sad for the familiy now."
Those who knew Cruz from the neighborhood where he ran his bodega, said he always tried to help the community.
"If you're hungry, and he knew you was hungry, he fed you; if you had some place to go and you didn't have the money, he give you the money to go take care of that business. That's the type of person he is. And for somebody to just kill him like that, you know, without even knowing him... You know, if they knew what type of person he was they wouldn't even bother to rob the store."
Cruz will be buried in his native Dominican Republic later this week.
Police are still looking for the people responsible for Cruz' murder.
A $13,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.
Hispanics Across America and the Guardian Angels announced Sunday that they are putting up $10,000, in addition to the money already being offered by the NYPD and 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement.
"We want the City Council and the state Assembly to legislate and pass a law that will make it mandatory for every small business to have a surveillance camera,” said Hispanics Across America President Fernando Mateo. “If we can identify who is committing these crimes, we will know that these are the same people that are threatening our security, our safety in the street. They're threatening our freedom; they're threatening our livelihoods."
Police say three men entered Cruz’s South Ozone Park store last Monday and stole $300 before shooting him in the face. He died Wednesday.