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Queens liquor store owner charged after accidentally shooting shoplifter amid scuffle



For the second time in a month, a suspected shoplifter in Queens has been involved in violent struggle with a store worker that ended with the employee firing a gun — and once again, the worker in question has been charged.

Now, those who live in the neighborhood and a bodega association are offering their support for the store owner behind bars for allegedly shooting the suspect.

Francisco Valerio, the owner of Franja Wines & Liquors on Wyckoff Avenue in Ridgewood, was in custody on Tuesday after the NYPD said he accidentally shot a shoplifter during a scuffle the night before.

Two 20-year-old men, identified as Edwin Poaquiza and Kevin Pullutasi, tried to steal bottles of alcohol from the liquor store and were escorted out, according to police. But they later returned to the shop, things quickly turned violent.

“The video tape shows everything. It shows when they came back. It shows when they tried to kick the door down. Valerio opened the door and he was assaulted. He was punched in the face,” said Fernando Mateo, of the United Bodegas of America. “And guess what, he could’ve lost his life.”

The United Bodegas of America plans to release surveillance video later in the week.

According to police, Valerio — a licensed gun owner — pistol-whipped one of the suspects. As he did so, the gun went off.

The man who was shot in the stomach was expected to survive. The two suspected shoplifter face multiple charges including robbery, assault and menacing.

The 53-year-old was charged with reckless endangerment.

“Francisco Valerio is a hard working, decent man, no criminal record,” said Mateo. “We cannot prosecute this man.”

Just two weeks ago, a similar alteration unfolded at a Rego Park bodega. Police said Netesh Netesh, a worker at the store, stabbed 21-year old Dylan Marino to death in a confrontation over a stolen beer.

Netesh was taken into custody and later released.

The head of the bodega workers emphasized self-defense is a must for those working in stores.

“People need to be able to defend and protect their own lives,” Mateo said.

An investigation is ongoing.

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