LORAIN — There was a grim edge to Mayor Tony Krasienko’s voice Friday night as he talked about the first murder to hit the city under his watch.
“We’re putting all our resources into solving this terrible tragedy,” he said. “This is a reflection of the social ills we’re dealing with right now.”
Jose Gonzalez, 47, was shot and killed about 10 a.m. Friday at the Lexington Avenue grocery store he owned.
Krasienko said he thinks police will discover the killing was driven by drug abuse and drug trafficking — the two evils that he says are also behind violent robberies in November and January.
The last shop owner killed in Lorain was 43-year-old David Kowalczyk, who was gunned down during a June 23 robbery at the former Granny D’s Pizza on East Erie Avenue. Three men were arrested in connection with his slaying and are awaiting trial.
Since the beginning of the year, Lorain police have investigated 12 robberies, most involving masked men armed with guns and knives. Most likely, they aren’t related, detectives say.
Not that the problem has been confined to Lorain.
At 6:54 a.m. Friday, a gun-toting man robbed a Clark gas station on North Ridge Road in Sheffield Township.
Sheriff’s Capt. Richard Resendez said a light-skinned black man walked into the station and pulled a semi-automatic pistol on the clerk, then ran off after he got the money from the register.
Patti Kurtz, who owns three Subway sandwich shops — two in Lorain and one in Elyria Township — said things have gotten out of hand.
Her store in Elyria Township was robbed twice in November.
“It’s very scary,” Kurtz said Friday, recounting how frightened her employees were when the gunman came in. “You just want them to be gone. You have to do whatever they ask. Get them out of the store and lock the door.”
She posted signs on the doors of all three stores, informing would-be robbers that there’ll be very little cash in the register. And she’s hammered home to her employees that they cannot accept large bills as payment, that they must drop cash into the safe frequently and they aren’t to take the garbage out after dark.
She also trains each new employee how to handle being robbed, she said, acknowledging that she’s particularly worried about her Lorain stores.
“The town is hurting,” she said. “Everybody has to be on the lookout. Everybody has to do their best to watch and make sure we’re safe.”
Krasienko said he’s been talking with police and store owners about ways to improve safety.
“It may be providing them with consultation or some sort of business loan program to help them get better security cameras,” he said.
Krasienko is planning to soon roll out a new community policing program in hopes of increasing the visibility of officers on the streets. There also are plans to secure grants to hire additional officers, he said.
Contact Jason Hawk at 329-7148 or email@example.com.
LORAIN ROBBERIES IN 2008
Jan. 2 – Rudy’s Market, West 23rd Street, the same man who robbed the store on Oct. 10 and Dec. 10 returned with a knife.
Jan. 8 – West 28th Street, an elderly couple returning from a birthday party was robbed in their driveway.
Jan. 9 – Dollarama, Oberlin Avenue, police say Eliezer Carabello, 31, flashed a knife at a cashier and demanded money.
Jan. 11 – West 15th Street, a man said a former housemate robbed him of $50, then forced him to drive to a drug deal.
Jan. 11 – Lakeside Drive, two men in dark clothing rushed a woman in her driveway, pushed her down and stole her purse.
Jan. 12 – Pure gas station, Grove Avenue, a Hispanic man with a large knife handed a clerk a note demanding money. He got away with $50.
Jan. 14 – East 25th Street, a masked gunman tied up his victim.
Jan. 15 – Shell gas station, Tower Boulevard, a robber wearing a bandana held a clerk at gunpoint.
Jan. 16 – Garden Avenue, three men wearing ski masks kicked in a door and stole $500 at gunpoint.
Jan. 16 – McKinley Avenue, two masked men — one with a gun — took painkillers from a man.
Jan. 16 – Clark gas station, Grove Avenue, a man wearing a bandana pointed a semi-automatic gun at a clerk and took $110.
Jan. 23 – Crehore Avenue, a man rushed a woman in her driveway, pushed a gun in her face and stole her purse.