‘If you needed something, he was always there’: Parolee shot dead in Brooklyn had turned life around, mourning family says

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John Annese, New York Daily News
·3 min read
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A parolee fatally shot on a Brooklyn street had bettered his life while in prison — and found meaningful work with a homeless charity after his release, his distraught family says.

Robert Caldwell, 48, got his GED and certifications for maintenance work while incarcerated, his family said. After his release from prison in 2018, he took a job as a driver with a nonprofit focused on social services for homeless children, according to relatives.

“His untimely death is a great loss to many,” said a cousin of Caldwell’s oldest daughter, who identified herself as Nicole. “Nobody deserves that.”

“It was my understanding that he was a model parolee,” she added.

Caldwell labored to take care of his four children and two granddaughters.

Police were looking into whether Caldwell’s troubled past caught up with him when his killer opened fire near E. 78th St. and Farragut Road in Canarsie about 12:20 a.m. Sunday, hitting him in the torso and leg. Medics rushed him to Brookdale University Hospital but he couldn’t be saved.

Caldwell was arrested on murder charges in connection with a 1990 shooting but was never convicted of the charge. But he served four years in prison for robbery starting in 1992, records show.

“He made some bad decisions when he was a teenager,” Nicole said. “He ended up getting arrested as a result.”

He jumped bail on a robbery charge in the late 1990s or early 2000s and managed to stay under the radar for nearly a decade, according to his family.

“In those eight to 10 years he obviously stayed out of trouble,” Nicole said. “During that time he did little odd jobs because he couldn’t use his name.”

But he wound up back in cuffs after of a traffic stop and was sent back to prison.

State records show he was convicted of attempted robbery and bail jumping and served a decade in prison starting in 2008.

After his release three years ago, he lived with his girlfriend in Canarsie, blocks away from where he was killed. Nicole said she couldn’t fathom why he was shot, saying he had no problems with anyone in the neighborhood.

“I’m almost certain he was circling the area for parking or on that block on his way home,” she said. “We know it was not a robbery because they didn’t take anything from him. His phone, his money, his jewelry was all there.”

His car was found damaged nearby, she said, but she didn’t know if that was related to the killing.

“Even if someone hit him the last thing he would do is get out and be aggressive,” she said. “His personality and his energy — I don’t ever remember him being upset, or loud.”

Nicole said she last saw Caldwell Jan. 6, at a memorial for a friend’s mother.

“He stopped by, we made him a plate, he had a drink and then he went on with his day,” she said.

She described him as generous and kind.

“If there was a crowd of people in the room you probably wouldn’t notice him because he was so laid back,” she said. “But if you needed something, he was always there.”