Amy Heinze wants the parents of the Atlantic City teen fatally shot Wednesday afternoon to know one thing: “He didn’t die alone.”
Angel Mercado, 13, was with a group of boys on Route 30 when someone started shooting at them. Angel — whose full last name was listed by the Atlantic County prosecutor as Mercado-Santiago — was killed. A 15-year-old boy whose name is not being released was wounded.
Heinze, a nurse who lives in the city and was driving past at the time of the shooting, said she stopped and tried to save the boy, who had a wound to his chest and another to his abdomen.
“A kid kept screaming, ‘No, Angel. No,’” she recalled.
She ripped off his bloody jacket, tore off his shirt and applied pressure to the chest wound, making sure not to move him and risk paralysis.
“I told him to hold on for his mom,” Heinze recalled. “I said, ‘They’re coming. Hold on, Angel.’”
Angel and a group of boys had just left the Pennsylvania Avenue School, where he was a seventh-grader. Boys and Girls Club workers who transport the students who attend there hadn’t even returned to the building when the gunfire began, said Bryant DeShields, a coach at the club.
Friends mourned Angel via social media Thursday, talking of crying in class. His locker at school was covered with messages.
School counselors and other professionals are available for students and teachers as long as they need them, Superintendent Donna Haye said.
“We, as a district and school family, are heartbroken by this tragic loss,” she said.
Haye said that in addition to the students, “the teachers are devastated. They truly care about their students.”
There was an additional police presence at all of the city’s schools during dismissal Thursday, as promised by Chief Henry White. School safety officers were also there for the students.
Heinze was driving home when she saw the boys yelling at someone. She looked in her rear-view mirror in time to see a male — who she believes was older than the teens — throw down his bike.
At first, she thought he was going to fight them. Then, he reached into his waistband and pulled out a gun, she said.
“He just started shooting wildly into a group of kids,” Heinze said.
When she realized one boy had been shot, she made a U-turn onto the sidewalk, jumped out of her car and ran to the teen.
Paramedics and police arrived quickly, Heinze said.
A paramedic told her: “I think he’s gone.”
“I think he is, too,” Heinze replied, crying Thursday as she recalled the scene.
Gunfire isn’t rare in this area, said Tiffany Burns, as she stood outside the Boys and Girls Club about 24 hours after the shooting.
“Many times I’ve had to get my kids down on the floor,” the mother of five said of worrying that a bullet would enter her home.
Burns had heard of the teen’s death when she got to the club Wednesday to pick up her 10- and 12-year-old sons.
“I hugged both of them just so hard,” she said.
Angel and the other boy who was shot had both been members at one point, DeShields said.
But on Sept. 27 — after less than three weeks in — Angel stopped coming.
DeShields said the kids hadn’t really talked about the tragedy.
Heinze just hopes Angel’s family will find comfort in knowing someone tried to help.
“We should be helping,” she said, adding that Atlantic City has good qualities. “It’s a city. There’s good and bad. This was just a horrible situation.”
The Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office continues to investigate the homicide. Anyone with information is asked to call the Major Crimes Unit at 609-909-7666.
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