The man he killed

Shooting victim William Long was painted as a dangerous vagrant. His friends say otherwise.

"There are a lot of colored people who steal," says Flores, speaking in Spanish of Long, who was black. "But he was trustworthy," he says of the man whom he knew for six or seven years.

His chin begins to quiver. His eyes well up. "What they did to him was wrong," he says after a moment's silence, "because they let Mr. Sanchez go."

As polite as many say William Long was, though, there's a police record that paints a different picture. There's one charge for assaulting a homeless woman, another for making terroristic threats. But his defenders point out that in Texas only one conviction led to a long-term sentence, about a year in jail. Details of his life are as sketchy as his police record.

In the five years Hilda Van Wormer, below, knew him, William McKinley Long worked on and off renovating homes for her.
Alyssa Banta
In the five years Hilda Van Wormer, below, knew him, William McKinley Long worked on and off renovating homes for her.
Hilda Van Wormer
Hilda Van Wormer

For her part, Victoria Long never stopped wondering what happened to her father.

Growing up, she always took his presence for granted. She couldn't remember a time when she lived with him or when exactly her parents had separated. Still, she always got the chance to see him, especially on weekends. Often, her mother made sure that Victoria traveled from their two-bedroom apartment in the Bronx to Harlem, where he lived. There she would pass the time with him by going clothes shopping. Or she would play a game of tag with her cousins outside, while he sat on a nearby stoop. Those are some of the most vivid memories she has of him.

Like those who knew him, she describes him as a soft-spoken man. She never heard him yell.

Now, his killer, Robert Sanchez, has been advised to lay low until "things calm down," as his attorney Lewis, puts it.

They already have. For years, Long was one of hundreds who went to the Austin Street Shelter. Whether from fear or apathy or mere forgetfulness, no homeless person there seems to recall him.

"We asked around," says a supervisor. "There's no one here who knows him."

No one at all.

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