Bronx teen charged in murder in 2020 shooting

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A Bronx teen allegedly murdered an “innocent kid” in a botched gang hit — after he was cut loose by a judge in an earlier armed robbery case instead of being thrown behind bars, The Post has learned.

Steven Mendez, 17, was charged Friday with allegedly gunning down 21-year-old Saikou Koma on Oct. 24 in what law enforcement sources said was a potential case of mistaken identity fueled by vengeful gangbangers out for blood.

Mendez, who is accused of being the triggerman in Koma’s death, was free to allegedly kill after pleading guilty in a 2020 assault, robbery and weapons possession case, the sources said.

In May, acting Bronx Supreme Court Justice Denis Boyle granted Mendez probation — over prosecutors’ objections to send the teen to jail.

Mendez already had at least three other busts on his record, including a 2019 weapons charge for pulling a gun on his own mother.

Now, Koma’s grieving parents are demanding justice in light of the information that their son’s alleged killer was out on probation at the time.

“This judge let him go, but I’m not letting him go,” Haja Kaira, the victim’s mother, told The Post through tears on Monday. “My son will get justice. This is crazy.”

Police investigate the scene of a shooting near 2253 Ryer Ave in the Fordham Heights neighborhood of the Bronx.
Police investigate the scene of a shooting near 2253 Ryer Ave in the Fordham Heights neighborhood of the Bronx.
William Miller

She continued, “He don’t deserve to be out there. A killer is a killer. He’s going to do it again.”

Koma’s father, Amar Bully Koma, called Boyle’s decision “insane.”

“What is wrong with this judge?” he said. “If this was the judge’s son, or his nephew or a relative, he would not let him go. The city, the mayor. If this was his kid, they would not let him go. They do not care about us. No rights for us.”

Saiko Koma 21years-old murderd in front of  800 E 180th Street his apartment Building in The Bronx
Saikou Koma, 21, was killed on Oct. 24.
G.N.Miller/NYPost

Mendez was indicted last year on first-degree assault, first-degree robbery and felony gun possession charges stemming from a July 17, 2020 armed robbery in the Bronx. The victim in that case was shot in the leg, prosecutors and court officials confirmed.

Mendez, who was 16 at the time of the crime and prosecuted as “youthful offender,” pleaded guilty and was placed in a non-secure facility pending sentencing, the state Office of Court Administration said.

In May, Boyle opted to set the teen free citing a report that Mendez was “fully engaged” and performing well in school.

Haja Kaira 51 years-old speaking to the NY Post about the murder of her son Saiko Koma 21 years-old
Haja Kaira, Saiko Koma’s mother, is demanding justice.
G.N.Miller/NYPost

“The judge felt that a state prison sentence at that point in his life for a crime committed as an accomplice at the age of 16 was not warranted and accordingly was sentenced as a YO to five years’ probation,” OCA spokesman Lucian Chalfen explained Monday.

Under state law, defendants between ages 16 and 19 can be granted “youthful offender” status — which reduces their sentences and seals their criminal records.

A spokesperson for Bronx District Attorney Darcel Clark said the judge’s decision came “over our objections,” and said prosecutors wanted a sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years — the maximum allowed for a youthful offender convicted of a felony.

Police investigate the scene of a shooting near 2253 Ryer Ave in the Fordham Heights neighborhood of the Bronx.
Steven Mendez allegedly murdered Saikou Koma in a botched gang hit.
William Miller
Judge Denis Boyle
Judge Denis Boyle granted Steven Mendez probation in May.
Robert Kalfus

Back on the streets, sources said that Mendez, a reputed gang member, was with other gangbangers on Oct. 24 when they went out seeking payback for the beating of one of their own by a rival gang, sources said.

The riled-up delinquents came upon Koma on Ryer Avenue in Fordham Heights and shot him — with Mendez allegedly pulling the trigger of the .357-caliber handgun, law enforcement sources said.

Sources said the group may have mistaken Koma for a member of the rival gang — or were simply out for blood — but insisted the victim was “a completely innocent kid.”

Saiko Koma
Saiko Koma’s alleged killer was out on probation at the time of his death.
G.N.Miller/NYPost
Haja Kaira 51 years-old speaking to the NY Post about the murder of her son Saiko Koma 21 years-old in front of  800 E 180th Street their apartment Building in The Bronx
Saiko Koma was murdered in front of their apartment building at 800 E 180th Street in the Bronx.
G.N.Miller/NYPost

Kaira, Koma’s heartbroken mother, railed against the judge’s decision to spring Mendez.

“You have to do the job,” she said. “You have to keep us safe. If one part of the system doesn’t work, none of it works. Too much gun violence everywhere not.”

Mendez was still on probation from the 2020 case when he was arrested Friday, officials said.

Haja Kaira 51 years-old speaking to the NY Post about the murder of her son Saiko Koma 21 years-old in front of  800 E 180th Street their apartment Building in The Bronx
Law enforcement sources said Saikou Koma’s death was a potential case of mistaken identity.
G.N.Miller/NYPost

“When a kid gets caught with a gun and gets home before dinner, they’re sending a weaponized version of that kid back on the street,” the source said. “They’re more dangerous.”

Mendez’s Legal Aid Society attorney did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

A spokesperson for the city Department of Probation said they are “legally precluded” by state law from providing information on youthful offender cases.

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