top of page
  • Writer's pictureVolume 82 Magazine

Our Conversation With Alpo Martinez Prior to His Death: Plus His Lawyer's Comments on His Demise

The Sunday afternoon that I connected with Albert “Alpo” Martinez (or Po, as he told me I could call him), I had just interviewed and finished a photoshoot with his friend, Ms. Tee, the author of the books Harlem Heroin(e) and No Snitching. Ms. Tee and I decided to meet up with Po at Melba’s, a popular restaurant in Harlem. We were already seated and having a good time when he arrived. As I saw him driving down the street on his maroon Harley Davidson motorcycle, I had to run inside Melba’s to ask a question, and when I returned, he was sitting at our outdoor table.

We shook hands before I sat down, and I offered him a drink. He said he didn’t drink, then we started a conversation. “Alpo Martinez in the flesh,” I said, and he kind of smiled. After asking me where I traveled from, I told him “Iowa.” He laughed and said, “Who lives in Iowa? I don’t know anybody from Iowa!” I laughed and told him “There are actually a lot of people from Iowa, like T-Boz from the band TLC.” “I didn’t know that,” he said, seeming amused. He went on to say, “Well, I was living in Maine,” as an attempt to make me feel better about living in Iowa. I said, “Maine?” “Maine has the best lobsters,” he said, turning his attention to Ms. Tee. “Tee has been up there to visit!” Then he said, “Maine has to be the whitest state,” to which I responded, “Then Iowa must be number two!” His silliness started early in our conversation. I complimented Po on the custom-made Gucci German helmet he was wearing. “Thanks, it’s big enough to fit your head, he said!” And we laughed!

Po then explained that the Federal Witness Protection Program placed him in Maine when he came home from prison-I later found out that the program also gave him the new identity of Abraham Rodriquez. He told me that he’d recently returned to the New Jersey area to live. I asked him if he rode his motorcycle all the way to Harlem from New Jersey. He said “No,” then explained that he drove his car to New York, parked it where his bike was located, and then rode his bike the rest of the way. Since he made a joke earlier, I figured I’d try to break the ice with him a little more and joke around too. So I asked him if I could ride his motorcycle, and he said, “Anybody who rides it has to take full liability if they crash it. You know how to ride?” “No,” I responded. “I was just trying to see if you would let me,” and he smiled.

I sat and observed him while we continued to talk. Po had a different kind of energy. It wasn't bad, he had a strong and somewhat calm energy. And his demeanor clearly stated that he was an alpha male! If I had met him without knowing his background, that he had been indicted for his involvement in 14 murders, was a federal witness, and served nearly 25 years in prison, I would have never guessed he had such a dark past. Po had to be a regular at Melba’s because our waitress came over and teased him for not speaking to her. He laughed and said “Sorry.” He jokingly told her that she had a new hairstyle, so he didn’t recognize her. Then, the musician who was setting up for the live band ran over and shook Po’s hand. A lot of people acknowledged him that day, and each time, he politely acknowledged them back. We all talked some more, then we took pictures. I said “Let me make sure I don’t put a filter on you,” to which he responded, “I don’t need a filter. I’m photogenic! And don’t forget to get the shoes in the picture.” Po had on brown shorts, a cream T-shirt, Gucci shoes, a beaded bracelet, a photo necklace, and his Gucci German helmet.

He seemed taller than I thought, so I asked him his height. He said, “I’m 6’2”, but I’ve started to shrink. I’m about 6’1” now.” I could see that Sunday afternoons were popular at Melba’s. The crowd started picking up, and customers with reservations were waiting for their tables, so we decided to move around. He paid for the bill, and confirmed that we would see each other later. When Po called me later, he said he was en route to give something to his son and asked if he could pull up on me. I said that would be fine. When he got to my location, he was still on his motorcycle. After he got off his bike, I asked about the sock he was wearing over one shoe. He explained that he wore it to protect his shoe when riding. We walked off, and I told him I was going to grab some water, and he asked for an apple juice....

Volume82: It looks like you ride your bike all day.

Alpo: Yea. I love the bike. It comes before a relationship. The bike don’t talk back or get smart. It just takes me where I want to go!

Volume 82: Are you in a relationship?

Alpo: I was, but that relationship is over.

Volume 82: I see. So, I know you’re Puerto Rican Po, but you have a lot of black features.

Alpo: Yea. My dad was from Grenada.

Volume 82: Ok. How many kids do you have?

Alpo: Two sons.

Volume 82: I heard you have a project coming out about your life.

Alpo: Yes, a husband and wife team may do the book. They have a relationship with [he named the film studio]. I’m signed to [artist’s name withheld] for the film and book deal. Me and [actor’s name withheld] may do a podcast in the future, too.

Volume 82: I see. What are you up to these days? What do you do for work?

Alpo: I drive trucks.

Volume 82: Semis? In state?

Alpo: Yes.

Volume 82: Are you on social media?

Alpo: No! Nope!

Volume 82: Po, how old are you?

Alpo: I’m 55.

Volume 82: Ok. You don’t look like it.

Volume 82: [Considering the dangerous lifestyle that he once lived, I noticed what I thought was a bullet wound on his hand.] How did you get that scar?

Alpo: I hurt it playing basketball in prison, and they put a pin in it.

Volume 82: I see.

Volume 82: Well, this is kind of a typical question, but what do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

Alpo: That I don’t care about all the things that I’ve done. But I do. I spent a lot of time crying about things and regretting them. I served a lot of time. But, I’m not out here bothering anybody. I’m just trying to live.

Volume 82: Are you healing from everything?

Alpo: I’m healed…

At that moment, I noticed both sincerity and regret in Po. I could see that he wanted to tread lightly with our discussion…That was fine. I figured that we would have plenty of time to build rapport with each other and resume this discussion at another time, but little did I know, we did not have much time. We talked about the interview that I had just finished the day prior with his former friend and business partner, Azie Faison. Earlier in the day when we were at Melba’s, I explained to Po that part of my reason for coming was to do a photoshoot and finish an interview with Azie as well. I told him that even though he’s mentioned in the interview, (because his and Azie’s stories are so intertwined-the movie Paid in Full was made about their lives), I thought he would be OK with the article. He nodded his head in acknowledgement.

We went on to talk about other upcoming writing projects that I was working on, such as a story about a former NFL player. Po said that he remembered the player’s career, and he used to bet on athletic games all the time when he was in jail. We talked some more about life in general, then he checked the weather on his phone and decided to leave. Before he left, he gave me a big hug and told me to travel home safely. We continued to communicate after I left New York, and I often say that I experienced the personality of his nice Gemini twin, because Po certainly didn’t seem evil to me. He was friendly, yet he seemed distracted, like he had a lot on his mind. I tried to visualize what he was like when his personality did a 180-degree change and visited the spiritually dark place that allowed him to be violent and kill others, but I just couldn’t see it. However, I’m sure the 55-year old Alpo was unlike the Alpo in his twenties. He made you feel like redemption was possible.

I last spoke with Po about a week before his murder. When I woke on Halloween morning 2021, I had a lot of new comments [RIP and the like] under a picture that I posted from meeting him. Then I saw the headline "Alpo Martinez was killed in a drive-by shooting." I thought it was fake news. The term "drive-by" just didn't sound right. So I called Ms. Tee. I could tell when she answered the phone that she was upset. I asked her if someone hurt Albert, and she confirmed that he was killed. I got a call from Azie next, confirming the same information.

Even considering the life he once lived, this news was shocking. Alpo had been out of jail for six years with no problems. From the day at Melba's, it was evident that he was very social and visible in Harlem. In fact, it seemed like the more the Internet showed a photo or video of him, the more he appeared to be merging back into society as a regular person. Still, Harlem would never be the same for him; even re-settling in New Jersey proved not to be a good fit.

Po was on the brink of releasing a project that would finally allow him to tell his version of his life story. Had someone killed him so he wouldn't have that opportunity, I wondered? Did someone wait for him to get comfortable coming back to Harlem? Did he really die over a situation involving a woman (this is a rumor)? Did he run into a past enemy who was still holding a grudge? All of these questions flooded my mind. Then I thought about the irony of his death, he survived another shooting when he was younger. Yet, Alpo was known to regularly wear a bulletproof vest in current times, but when he died, he supposedly had on the vest and was allegedly only hit in the body.

Finally, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps Po was mentally and spiritually drained from certain aspects of his life, and deep down inside, he accepted that he would leave here violently and was ready to die. Maybe he knew this was coming. Although Alpo told me that he'd healed from the things he'd done, I think he was still making peace with God. So many questions and discussions remain about his passing, to the point where he's nearly immortalized. There aren't many solid answers about what happened, just plenty of speculation. Almost everything is recorded or photographed in this day and age, and there isn't the type of video footage or photos you might expect to see when someone like 'the' Alpo Martinez is shot dead. However, further speculation arose after images of his vehicle at the crime scene appeared online.

His truck didn't show a bloody mess, just tightly grouped bullet holes in his driver's side window, which led people to believe that an experienced shooter or a hitman was behind his death. Plus, there was no funeral or viewing of his body. His family handled things privately, which encouraged some to assume that he’s still alive and staged the shooting. It's rumored that a few Harlem Hospital employees said he was stabilized and survived, and others confirmed that he died. Even various online bloggers further agitate the situation by going to great lengths to anonymously claim that he's still alive and in contact with them. Nevertheless, considering his bigger-than-life personality, his passing seems surreal, private, abrupt, and as time goes on, it feels more real.

Albert's death has received many different reactions. Some people directly impacted by his crimes have publicly spoken-explaining that his death gave them closure, and others celebrated his death. But many people shared their love and condolences as well. Several Harlem natives remember him as an overall good guy who lived too fast and went down a path that made him believe he had to become a killer. There were some things I wanted to ask Albert about his incarceration, so I tracked down his attorney, Thomas Abbenante, for that information and his feelings on his demise.

Here's our discussion:

Volume 82: You represented Alpo during his indictment in Washington, D.C. What do you think about everything that’s happened?

Thomas: Alberto was an intelligent man. He fought long and hard about the decisions that he made. He was faced with decisions and options, and he made a choice. The decisions he made, he didn’t take them lightly. He worried about the consequences that his family (his mother and sister), and those he testified against, would face. He was concerned that people would retaliate against his mother and sister once he cooperated.

Volume 82: There are rumors that he was a regular informant and testified against people who he never had dealings with or didn’t commit crimes with.

Thomas: No. He only testified about the things he had direct knowledge about. Everything he admitted to, he did. Prosecutors would have never presented evidence from him that they couldn’t verify or corroborate with him. As a government witness, he had a signed agreement that stated that he had to tell the truth when things were brought to him.

Volume 82: I understand. How did you find out about his death?

Thomas: A mutual person that we both know contacted me about it. Alberto was a very charismatic and likeable guy. I wish he would have taken advantage of what was given to him in the program. The tragedy of it all is that he was an intelligent person who could have pursued anything in life and been successful at it if life had been different for him.

Volume 82: I agree. I truly wonder what happened.

Thomas: I don’t know. Many people never forgave him for what he did and would be happy to say they killed him.

Volume 82: Right. How are you feeling about the news?

Thomas: I was shocked and saddened by his death. I really hoped that he would live out the rest of his years and make peace for what he’d done. He spent a great deal of time examining his life and the choices he made, and he was sorry for it.

Volume 82: Thank you for your time. I appreciate your input.

Thomas: You’re welcome.

At this point, it’s still undetermined how much of Alpo’s personal narrative will be released. After coming home from prison, he opened up on camera to film director Troy Reed about murdering Richard Porter for what was supposed to be a documentary. However, in 2019 a snippet of the project was leaked and then criticized. Due to the public criticism, Reed apologized to Richard’s family, and the film was never completed. However, he recently promoted a book about Alpo via social media that he plans to release. Years ago, Reed actually directed The Alpo Documentary while Alpo was incarcerated.

Despite the deaths of Richard and Alpo, people continue to personalize the Azie, Alpo, and Rich Porter saga. It’s one of the most significant urban cautionary tales. It’s powerful if you look at the messages connected to it, and so with respect for all, I close with the following:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” – John 1:9

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” – Hebrews 8:12


Update: Following the release of this story, 27-year-old Shakeem Parker was arrested and charged in connection with Alpo's murder. According to authorities, Parker was already in custody on Rikers Island for unrelated charges.

To subscribe to Volume 82, click the link. To follow our Instagram, click here; for TikTok, click here!

Alpo Martinez at Melba’s Restaurant in Harlem. Summer (2021)


bottom of page