Connect with us

Shopping

NYC liquor store owner faces 7 years in prison for shooting would-be robber — bodega group rallies to drop charges

Published

on

A Queens liquor store owner is facing seven years in prison after shooting a would-be thief who attacked him in a caught-on-camera clash — but some critics want the charges dropped.

Francisco Valerio, 53, and his brother Luis allegedly caught two sticky-fingered suspects trying to slip bottles of booze into their jackets inside Franja Wines and Liquors in Ridgewood at about 7:45 p.m. Monday, according to cops and store surveillance footage.

The Valerios grabbed Kevin Pullutasi and Edwin Paiquiza – both 20 – then shoved them towards the door as another customer looked on, the video released by a trade group showed.

In the surveillance video, one of the would-be thieves tries to slip a bottle of brown liquor under his jacket. United Bodegas of America
Valerio Francisco, 53, (right) leaves court after his arraignment on Tuesday. Wayne Carrington

But the fight didn’t end after they pushed the would-be thieves out the door.

Instead, the kerfuffle spilled onto the pavement on Wyckoff Avenue, where the brothers appeared to trade insults with the suspects.

As the would-be walked away from the store, one of the brothers leaned out the door and seemed to say something that sent Pullutasi into a rage, the video shows.

Pullatasi charged the door and traded punches and kicks with the men — just before Valerio stepped outside and took a wild swing with his right hand.

That’s when the gun in his hand went off, according to a statement from the Queens District Attorney’s Office.

Pullutasi stumbled around after the shooting, then came to rest against a car parked on the road, the video showed.

Valerio walked over and seemed to try to help the wounded man, who remained by the car until the video cut out.

All three face charges — but Valerio’s two counts of assault are by far the most serious, and threaten to imprison him for up to seven years.

“Brazen thieves stole merchandise from a neighborhood liquor shop,” Katz said in a statement.

One of the brothers grabbed one of the thieves, while the other grabbed the other pilferer. United Bodegas of America

“After the store was targeted by these shoplifters, the stolen merchandise was recovered, and the two men were escorted out of the store,” she continued. “At that point, the store owner was physically attacked by one of the men. Unfortunately, as alleged, that led to a reckless shooting by the store owner on a public street in broad daylight.

“All three of the defendants in this incident will have to answer charges against them,” she added.

Still, not everyone is happy Valerio got charged – including the United Bodegas of America, which said in a statement that Pullutasi and alleged accomplice Edwin Paiquiza had robbed Valerio’s store on Wyckoff Avenue “numerous times.”

“We are threatened, robbed, assaulted and looted every day, and the bad guys get away with it,” group President Radahmes Rodriguez said. “They are freed without bail and nothing ever happens to them. When we fight back, we are jailed and in some cases prosecuted. This must stop.”

“We are once again asking DA Melinda Katz to drop the charges,” added UBA spokesman Fernando Mateo spokesman. “Mr. Valerio is an honorable man in society, this should not change his life.”

Valerio allegedly tried to hit Pullutasi with the gun, but pulled the trigger instead. United Bodegas of America
Pullutasi stumbled around after the shooting, and came to rest against a car parked on the road. United Bodegas of America

The UBA was scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday in front of the store.

Valerio was arraigned Tuesday night on charges of second and third-degree assault reckless endangerment and weapons possession.

His next court date is July 29.

The two suspected thieves face their own legal complications from the incident — both men were charged with petit larceny for jacking the booze, the DA said.

Poaquiza – who faces a year in jail — will appear in court July 24.

Neighbors said they love Valerio, who they described as friendly merchants. Dorian Geiger
Kevin Pullutasi and Edwin Poaquiza, both 20, allegedly assaulted a worker at Franja Wines and Liquors store in Ridgewood around 7:45 p.m. citizen.com

Pullatasi remains hospitalized because of the gunshot wound but criminal charges against him are pending, Katz said.

Meanwhile, neighbors expressed their shock that a street battle engulfed their typically quiet neighborhood.

“I saw the guy who got shot — he was on the ground,” said a 30-year-old woman named Renee, who works from home and lives nearby.

“He was on his left side holding his stomach, he was yelling in Spanish,” she continued. “I couldn’t understand what he was saying … the cops were working on him, they were looking for his wound.”

Police tried to keep him awake, but Pullatasi’s head began rolling back and forth as he lost consciousness, she said.

“He lifted his head up, and tried to get up,” Renee said. “But they had him laid back down on the ground. It was another couple of minutes before the ambulance got here.

“You could tell they were kids,” she added. “They didn’t have masks on, they weren’t wearing all black. It was a wild thing, kind of a bold thing to do at 7:45 p.m. But at the end of the day, it’s still scary.”

Pullutasi ended up shot in the stomach, and was listed in stable condition at Elmhurst Hospital Center. citizen.com

Renee said she’s never seen such a thing happen in the neighborhood, and believes this was a bizarre, one-off incident.

“We go in there to get a bottle of wine,” she said. “He makes me feel comfortable. I never felt weird going in there … they’re just two guys in their 50s. They keep to themselves, stay behind the Plexiglas.

“I feel bad for the owner,” she continued. “He has to live with this for the rest of his life, and it sucks.”

On Wednesday morning, a man working in the store who described himself as part of Valerio’s family said the boss is doing good, despite the circumstances.

“He’s good,” the man said. “I have not spoken to him since it happened. It’s a sensitive matter, it’s a family thing … I cannot comment.”

Russell Dickerson, a 56-year-old basketball coach and restaurant owner who frequents the liquor store, reacted in shock when he heard Valerio had been arrested.

The neighborhood is typically quiet, locals said. Dorian Geiger

“I’m sorry for them because they are good people,” Dickerson said.

“I’m praying everything works out for him – we talk all the time,” Dickerson continued. “I’m the reason he got his Labrador! I have four, he saw me with them, and he let me bring my dogs into the store. He likes them, and he got one.”

Dickerson said the shooting makes him worry for the neighborhood, which he’s lived in for seven years.

“There has never been a problem,” he said. “Now I come home, I see police tape, I see drama … I’m starting to get scared now. I want to be in a safe place … I got to relocate. I never saw this coming.”

Dickerson also agreed with the bodega association’s statement that Katz should drop the case again Valerio.

“I love those guys,” he said again, shaking his head. “I can’t say anything bad about them. They take care of their customers, and they run a good business.

“Those charges should be dropped.”

Continue Reading