Cops, politicians and Jewish leaders in Midwood are offering nearly $20,000 to help find the masked gunman who murdered “neighborhood inspiration” Yosef Robinson — a Jamaican gangster-rapper who stripped away the trappings of his former life as a drug dealer to become an observant Jew.
Robinson was gunned down inside Midwood’s MB Vineyards, a liquor store on Nostrand Avenue between Avenues J and K, at 9:30 pm on Aug. 19 after he tried to protect his girlfriend, Lahavah Wallace, from a mugger.
Robinson, who lived on E. 12th Street in Flatbush, was working at the store at the time of his death. Wallace had come by to visit her beau when the gunman stepped inside and tried to steal her jewelry.
“He jumped over the counter and wrestled with the guy with the gun and told me to go.” Wallace told reporters, recalling how she ran to the store’s back room before hearing the shots.
When she finally came back out, she found Robinson bleeding on the floor.
“He was struggling to breathe,” she said.
The gunman, his face obscured by a hood, scarf and knit cap, ran off empty handed.
Police said Robinson was shot twice, once in the chest and once in the arm. He died of his injuries at Kings County Hospital.
Investigators have few clues, but were continuing their search for the gunman by late Monday, as scores of mourners turned out to attend Robinson’s funeral.
Friends said the 34-year-old’s journey was a profound one, with the one-time west coast drug dealer giving up his violent ways to embrace Judaism.
Despite going through a nasty divorce and custody battle, Robinson continued to walk the fine line between his adopted Jewish faith and his Jamaican heritage, they said.
“We lost a great man on Thursday … he was one of our generation’s bright lights,” remarked Robinson’s longtime friend Shais Rison. “Yosef was proud to be a Jew and he was proud to be a Jamaican and he never let either aspect of his identity overshadow the other. His life was filled with compassion and selflessness. He did us proud as both a black man as well as a Jew of color.”
Standing outside MB Vineyards on Sunday, Councilman Mike Nelson (D-Midwood) said Robinson “was a link between blacks and Jews in the neighborhood.”
“He was a very special person who had already done so much good and was going to do so much more,” Nelson explained. “We did not just lose Yosef, but all the mitzvahs he was going to bring to the neighborhood.”
During a brief press conference, Nelson, Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush), Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park), state Sen. Eric Adams (D-Flatbush), and Assemblywoman Rhoda Jacobs (D-Flatbush) all pledged to add to the city’s $12,000 reward for information about Robinson’s killer — bringing the amount to just under $20,000.
Williams said this was the sixth time since taking office in January that he had been asked to respond to a senseless shooting in his district.
“It’s sickening,” he said. “This is not a video game. When you shoot someone, they die. You can’t treat life so frivolously.”
Adams, who just recently offered a $5,000 for information on the shooting of a 88-year-old in Crown Heights, said the bulked up reward is not a testament to Robinson’s newfound faith, but because the victim had touched so many lives.
“Some incidents really have a major impact on the community at large,” he said, adding that people as far away as Crown Heights has been singing the Flatbush resident’s praises. “You really want people to stand up and take notice.”
Anyone with information about Robinson’s murder is urged to call CrimeStoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.