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PELHAM GARDENS, The Bronx (WABC) — A man is under arrest in connection to the death of a beloved 91-year-old man in the Bronx.

Police announced Monday that 32-year-old Luis Bonilla is facing charges of murder, manslaughter, robbery and assault.

Officers were called to the home on 2400 Wickham Ave in Pelham Gardens on Tuesday afternoon after reports of a robbery suspect wearing a uniform.

When officers went to the back of the home, they found the body of 91-year-old Nicholas Rappa. His hands were bound, he had trauma to the face and lacerations to his arm.

Officials released surveillance images of the suspect – dressed in a traffic vest, pants with reflective strips and a hard hat – running to a white pickup truck.

The suspect was allegedly casing the block, looking for items to steal, and told residents he was checking meters. However, the utility company has said they had no workers in the area and they don’t wear construction vests.

He reportedly came upon Rappo, told him he was a worker and attempted to rob him. But the longtime resident, who had recently been mugged on the same block, fought back.

During the scuffle, officials say Rappo was beaten to the ground. Bonilla reportedly tied his hands and feet to keep him from getting away.

He then allegedly put a towel over his mouth, which appears to have caused his death.

Acting on a tip from surveillance video released by police, officers spotted Bonilla on Monday morning at a bodega at East 193rd Street and Webster Ave in the Bronx.

A foot chase ensued, and Bonilla was caught and taken to the hospital for treatment of his drug use.

Authorities say Bonilla has “multiple” prior arrests and it is believed this crime was completely random. He was released on parole in January after serving four years for a 2017 robbery where he pepper-sprayed a woman while stealing her purse.

“If you wanted to rob him at 91-years-old, you could’ve tied him up and left him there somebody would have found him,” neighbor Adele Farina said. “To beat him like that, absolutely unnecessary. I can’t fathom what you have in your heart to do something like that.”

Community members said Rappa was a staple in the neighborhood and known as the mayor of the block.

“He always knew all the people, he always knew everyone literally stopped to talk to everyone,” Farina said. “He knew every house.”

Now they are holding onto those memories to get through this difficult time.
“Would laugh with us, talk with us and now he’s gone,” a neighbor said.

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