Fairhill laundromat owner won't be charged in shooting would-be robber

Update: Police said Monday the laundromat owner will not be charged with shooting the alleged robber or wounding a bystander.

Original Story

Elvin Gonzalez had just gotten out of his car at Fifth and Cambria Streets on Sunday night, headed for his first day of work at the pizza parlor on the corner, when he saw the money in the air -- $2,000 in cash, wafting down to the sidewalk.

And then he heard the gunshots.

Moments before, police said, a man had burst into the laundromat down the street, wielding a knife. He had forced the laundromat’s owner behind the plexiglass enclosure at the front of the store and grabbed fistfuls of cash at knifepoint before sprinting out of the store.

The owner grabbed his five-shot revolver, police said, and gave chase. As he pursued the would-be robber down the sidewalk, the man threw the cash in the air and kept running. At the intersection at Fifth and Cambria,  the store owner emptied his revolver in the man’s direction, and the man ended up getting hit twice in the chest.

On the street, bystanders ducked bullets. One woman was hit twice in the hand. Gonzalez watched, agape, from across the street.

“People were running away, north, south, west, east,” he said. “And then I thought, ‘Why are they coming back?’ ”

Then he realized: “The money was flying in the air.”

By the time police arrived, the cash was gone, said Philadelphia Police Capt. George Fuchs, pocketed by bystanders.

The laundromat owner was in custody Sunday night and cooperating with police, Fuchs said. It was unclear whether he would be charged. Police said the gun was owned legally.

The man who tried to rob his store, who police said was 42 years old, was in critical condition at Temple University Hospital and will be charged in connection with the robbery, Fuchs said – the laundromat's security cameras captured what happened. The 52-year-old woman struck in the chaos was in stable condition, he said.

The laundromat owner, whose name was not released by police, has been on Fifth Street for years; store owners nearby said he was married with several small children and worked seven days a week.

“They are really good people,” said Angel Perez, who owns a shop specializing in spiritual art next to the laundromat. He said store owners in the area were shaken by what happened and added that he believed his neighbor had acted in self-defense. “I think he should be released from jail. It’s not fair.”

As he spoke, two gunshots sounded from around the corner. “That’s another one,” he said.

Police officers raced down the block to a bar at Fourth and Cambria Streets, where witnesses said that a man had approached the bar and pointed a gun at a patron sitting on the front steps. A bar employee drew his own gun and fired two shots at him, patrons said, and the first man took off down the street. Police were still investigating that case Sunday night.

Back at the pizza parlor, delivery driver Gonzalez was shaken himself. He had worked at the store three years before, he said, and had been looking forward to returning. An hour into his first shift, as police took down the crime-scene tape and news cameras clustered on Cambria Street, he called his wife.

On second thought, he told her, this might not be the job for him.

Continue Reading