A Merrick man who died after he was knocked to the ground during a robbery in Brooklyn was the longtime owner of a Park Slope travel agency and the patriarch of a large family, police and relatives said Thursday.
Jesus Morales, 67, known as Jesse, was pronounced dead at Lutheran Medical Center after the robbery about 7:15 p.m. Wednesday outside an 18th Street apartment house, a few blocks from his business, Ramirez Travel Agency, on Fifth Avenue, police said.
"He was a devout man. He was a family man," his wife, Esmeralda, 57, said during a brief telephone interview before leaving the office to claim her husband's body.
She said he came to New York from Puerto Rico when he was 18 years old and had owned the travel agency for 26 years. She said they have seven children, 25 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
"It was a holdup. He was going to his car to go home and I guess the guy surprised him. He threw him to the ground," she said.
A woman who worked at a juice bar down the street from the travel agency said Morales was a customer and a pleasant man. "He was a very nice person. He would always smile," said Erika Morales, 23, who is not related.
Police said they responded to a report of a man being robbed and found Morales on the ground with head injuries. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told reporters that detectives got a description of the robber from two witnesses and were pursuing the investigation.
With Anthony M. DeStefano
and Gary Dymski ___