CLEVELAND — Antonio Milton of Cleveland knows the owner of the Kamoe Corner store, located in the city's South Collinwood neighborhood, is a beautiful person, even though he's visually impaired and has never seen him with his own eyes.
That's why Milton was so heartbroken when the store owner was shot in the face, and the inside of his store riddled by bullets, during Nov. 16 gunfire that took place just after 8 PM.
Milton told News 5 the store owner and his businesses, located at the intersection of East 156 Street and Holmes Avenue, have been a key part of his neighborhood, providing groceries and home supplies to a community that might not have the transportation needed to go to larger stores.
“I'm visually impaired and he does a beautiful job helping me when I come into the store.” Milton said. “He watches me when I walk out of the store to make sure I get back to where I’m going.”
“He’s trying to make a difference like you should be, and I feel for them to do this to him you’re very wrong and you have no conscience. There’s a better way to do things than what you did, thankfully he’s okay, but there’s a better way.”
Cleveland police said they are searching for the woman who fired the shots inside the store; pictures of the suspect were captured on store security cameras.
Ward 8 Cleveland Councilman Michael Polensek told News 5 he's known the owner, who is too afraid to be identified, for more than 20 years. Polensek said the owner of the store has been a pillar of the community, and pointed to Cleveland police reports that indicate the store owner has been the target of repeated criminal vandalism since the beginning of the year. Polensek believes a group of criminals are willfully trying to put the store out of business.
Polensek said he's contacted the Cleveland Safety Director and the Cleveland Police 5th District Commander to put more resources into solving the case. Investigators told News 5 they're also looking for two accomplices, perhaps and man and another woman, who stood outside the store as look-outs when the shooting took place.
“Some of these other stores, you get complaints about sales to minors and people congregating and loitering, never a complaint here," Polensek said. “He’s just a guy that’s trying to fulfill the American dream, he came to this country from Liberia, he’s an immigrant and just trying to build a business.”
"He's become a target, boom, boom, boom, vans get burnt, windows get knocked out, an attempt to steal his identity," he said. “We’re turning over every stone so that we can figure out who did this, because when they came in here, they made it to look like a robbery, but it was no robbery, because they shot at him right away. They were trying kill him, because he stood up against the people who tried to take his business.”
Cleveland police said anyone with information should please call investigators at 216-623-2576.
Meanwhile, Milton said the neighborhood will rally around the store owner and his family to help them reopen his business as soon as his injuries heal.
“Him and his wife, they run a great establishment," Milton said. “From kids to older people, they look forward to going to the store, because it’s always full of joy and happiness.”
“We miss him, we miss him around here, we really do.