Dec. 15, 2023 By Bill Parry
Two men were indicted in connection with the brutal murder of a motorist in Astoria who was beaten unconscious and then run over with his own car in October, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz announced on Friday.
Zahir Williams, 24, of Beck Street in the Bronx, and Aaron Mayer, 25, of Bucks County, Pennsylvania, were jointly indicted on murder, assault and other crimes before Queens Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Holder for their roles in a road rage incident that began with a fender-bender collision and quickly escalated into “cold-blooded brutality,” Katz said.
The pair are accused of killing 50-year-old Francisco Ortega of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
According to the charges, on the morning of Friday, Oct. 20, at around 3:30 a.m., Williams was behind the wheel of a Nissan with two associates when he crashed into the back of Ortega, who was driving a BMW sedan in the vicinity of Astoria Boulevard and Steinway Street.
Ortega, based on video surveillance and witness accounts, then pulled up in the BMW in front of 40-06 Astoria Blvd. and spoke to Williams and Mayer, who were among a group of people standing nearby.
Ortega and Williams appeared to argue before Ortega drove away only to return moments later. Ortega got out of his vehicle again to speak to Williams.
As Ortega stood between the open driver’s side door of the BMW talking, one of the individuals in the group with Williams suddenly sucker-punched him in the head from behind, causing him to fall to the roadway, according to the indictment. As Ortega was lying on the street, Williams and Mayer, along with two other individuals in the group, allegedly kicked and punched him repeatedly.
Williams, according to the charges, then stepped over the unconscious Ortega and got into the driver’s seat of the victim’s BMW. Williams repeatedly slammed Ortega’s head and body with the door.
Mayer then pulled Ortega’s body away from the side of the car toward the center of Astoria Boulevard, according to the charges. Williams shut the door and drove away from the scene.
Williams, according to the charges, circled the block and drove back to the intersection where Ortega was lying in the road unconscious. Williams allegedly slowed down, lined the car up with Ortega’s body and abruptly accelerated, driving over the victim.
Williams, according to the indictment, dragged Ortega’s body for several feet before crashing into a parked car. He got out of Ortega’s BMW and fled the scene on foot with two of the men southbound on Steinway Street. Those two suspects remain at large, police said.
EMS responded to the crime scene and rushed Ortega to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead a short while later due to multiple blunt impact injuries.
“An outnumbered victim was sucker-punched, viciously beaten unconscious and then mercilessly run over,” Katz said. “We need to get people capable of such cold-blooded brutality off our streets as soon as possible.”
Justice Holder ordered Williams and Mayer to return to court on Feb. 27. They both face up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.