Police engage in full-court press against gun violence
By Peter H. Milliken
A 28-year-old East Side man faces charges after a Sunday morning shooting and police chase on the city’s East Side.
The suspect, Sergio F. Gonzalez Jr., of South Garland Avenue, is scheduled to be video-arraigned in Youngstown Municipal Court at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday on charges of aggravated robbery, failure to comply with a police order, two counts of drug abuse and three counts of felonious assault.
Police arrested Gonzalez after a 3:30 a.m. incident that included police following car tracks and footprints in the snow to capture him and the recovery of an assault rifle and a handgun.
“The officers went beyond normal measures and made sure that we apprehended the individual and recovered two different firearms involved,” said police Chief Rod Foley.
A 34-year-old victim from Canfield said he heard about four gunshots while driving west on U.S. Route 422, then a gold Honda side-swiped his car and pulled alongside it, with the front-seat passenger of the Honda pointing an assault rifle out of its window.
The Honda hit the victim’s vehicle from behind, causing the victim’s car to spin out into the grass beside the road. Police began their pursuit immediately after the victim ran to a police car he saw nearby to report the incident.
“They are shooting at us,” the victim frantically told Officer Curt Hileman, whose cruiser was parked at Oak Street and Rice Avenue, while the officer worked on an accident report. The victim pointed to the intersection of Oak Street and Lane Avenue a block away.
Hileman drove to that intersection, heard people yelling and saw a man running from behind a church, holding a handgun.
Hileman drew his handgun and ordered the suspect to the ground, but the suspect kept running, entered a Pontiac Grand Am, and fled east on Oak Street with Hileman in pursuit, according to a police report.
Hileman lost sight of the Grand Am but followed the tracks it left in the snow, finding it parked, running, unoccupied and locked at Rigby and Pearl streets, with a handgun on its front seat.
Police then followed fresh footprints in the snow from the car to Gonzalez’ residence, where they arrested him, confiscated items of his clothing, a pill bottle, a pill believed to contain Ectasy, $1,944 and two wallets.
Another victim, a 20-year-old Campbell man, who came upon the crash scene and asked if anyone there needed help, positively identified Gonzalez as the man who hit him on the back of his head with a handgun and fled in his Grand Am.
The Canfield man told police he and a 33-year-old Akron man had left a Coitsville Township gentlemen’s club in a car with a 21-year-old female club employee from Boardman, who wanted a ride to her grandmother’s residence.
Police recovered the assault rifle from Oak and Lane and five spent .40- caliber rounds near Oak Street and Loveless Avenue.
Foley said local authorities confer regularly with David Toepfer, the Youngstown-based assistant U.S. attorney, concerning possible federal gun charges against those found to be carrying them illegally.