By Jeanne Starmack
and Denise Dick
A Warren man who was raising two children after the recent death of his wife is the victim in the city’s latest shooting death.
City police are investigating the death of Christopher V. Weston, 44, of Timberline Drive, Warren, at the Breaden Market on the South Side.
“We believe the victim may have been shot around noon,” said Capt. Rod Foley, chief of detectives. “He usually opened the store between 10 a.m. and 12.”
A neighbor across the street went into the store at 1026 Overland Ave. to buy groceries and use the telephone and found the victim behind the counter.
A police report said four shell casings from a .22-calilber gun were found in the store. Weston was shot twice in the back.
No neighbors reported hearing or seeing anything out of the ordinary, Foley said.
“The cold weather actually hurt us with that,” he said. “Nobody was outside because it’s too cold.”
Robbery is a possible motive, although police hadn’t determined Tuesday if anything was taken. They expect to have a better idea about that today, Foley said.
A police report said Weston’s jeans pocket was pulled out and his wallet was lying open on the floor near him. The cash register wasn’t opened, and it wasn’t known if there was any money missing from it.
Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call 330-746-CLUE. Foley said callers may remain anonymous and are possibly eligible for a cash reward.
If the Mahoning County coroner’s office determines the death is a homicide, it would be the city’s 21st homicide this year. There were 23 homicides in the city at this time in 2009, which also was that year’s total.
Store owner George Rafidi said the victim worked for him for nearly four years and was the father of two young children as well as other children in Pennsylvania. Rafidi said the man’s wife died a couple of months ago.
“He was a good, hard worker,” Rafidi said. “He was like a scientist, like Einstein. He could fix anything.”
Rafidi, who had surgery Tuesday, said he told the man not to open the store Tuesday, but the man insisted.
“I told him, ‘Since you’re going to open, maybe I should have one of my friends come down there.’ He didn’t want one of my friends to come down there. He said, ‘I can handle this all by myself.’”
The neighbor who found the victim notified other neighbors, who called Rafidi, he said.
He said problems are rare at the store.
“I never had a problem there in my life,” Rafidi said.
Marie Fleming, the neighbor who found Weston, said he was lying on his side behind the counter and his pockets were ruffled.
“I wouldn’t stay in there by myself,” said Fleming, who went to another neighbor’s house and called police around 1:50 p.m.
She said she knew Weston as a handyman who’d done remodeling for Rafidi at the store and also did work for people in the neighborhood. She said he normally didn’t work behind the counter.
“He put screens in my house,” she said, adding that people paid him for his work to help him support his children.
“He was a very nice man,” Fleming said.
Fleming said she did not hear or see anything unusual before the shooting.
The neighborhood, she said, is fairly quiet, with mostly older people living there.
She said there have been robberies “every now and then,” with the most recent one Sunday while residents were at work. Someone kicked the door in at a Garfield Street home, she said.
Fleming said that when she moved into the neighborhood 10 years ago, it was more violent. She said neighbors worked “to rid it of violence” by staying alert and calling police.
She said she is not afraid to live there.
“Wherever you move, it’s violent now,” she said. “It’s all over.”
Nonetheless, she’s feeling unsettled. “I’ve been shook up all day,” she said. “I still see his face.”
She also realizes how close a call she had. “I could have been in there,” she said. “They could have shot me too.”