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Queens D.A. Urged to Drop Charges Against Store Owner Who Says He Accidentally Shot Attacker

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The United Bodegas of America, a New York-based association of bodega owners and employees, is urging Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz to drop felony charges of assault and reckless endangerment filed against a shop owner who says he accidentally shot a man who was attacking him. 

Surveillance video released on Wednesday shows a pair of men walking into Franja Wines and Liquors, where the store’s owners say they tried to shoplift at least one bottle of booze. 

One of them tries to steal a large liquor bottle right in front of the camera, but owner Francisco Valerio and his brother Luis are onto them grabbing them and telling the would-be thieves to get lost.

Francisco’s other brother Miguel, who wasn’t there Monday when this happened, says the young men were familiar.

“It’s been bad. We’ve been dealing with these guys all the time. And all the time, we ask them to leave. But this time was different,” Miguel Valerio said.

After the pair were escorted outside, one of the two suspects ditched his bag and ran back to the shop door where he began assaulting Luis, at which point Francisco intervened to protect his brother. 

“Francisco did not know what he had in his hand. Could’ve been a gun, could’ve been a knife,” Fernando Mateo of the United Bodegas of America said at a press conference Wednesday night.

But it was Fransisco who had a gun that he told investigators he wanted to use to smack his brother’s attacker, but he accidentally fired it, wounding the 20-year-old man.

He’s expected to recover and face assault and petit larceny charges, but Francisco Valerio is charged with more serious counts of felony reckless endangerment and assault for the shooting.

“If he has to go to jail, I don’t know what the kids are going to do,” Francisco’s wife, Jael Valerio, said.

ABC 7 reports that neighbors and family, along with United Bodegas of America, are asking Katz to drop the charges, which carry a potential sentence of up to seven years in prison if Valerio is convicted. 

Francisco Valerio wasn’t the initial aggressor, so charging him with assault is utterly ridiculous. I believe it’s just as asinine that he’s facing charges of reckless endangerment for unintentionally shooting the 20-year-old suspect when he’d have a pretty solid defense-of-others claim if he had intentionally pulled the trigger. In the video, you can see Valerio run up to the door and swing at the man to get him to back away from his brother. Francisco had his lawfully carried pistol in his hand, but the gun discharged as he swung. 

New York does have a duty-to-retreat standard, and my guess is prosecutors are going to argue that the Valerios could have tried to shut the door to their shop and lock it to protect themselves. Whether or not a jury will go along is another question entirely, especially since the store owner is now facing more serious charges than the man who attacked his brother.  

New York’s hostility to gun owners isn’t confined solely to “gun-free zones” and regulations designed to inhibit the right to keep and bear arms. Especially in New York City, if you use a gun in self-defense or defense of someone else, you can expect to be treated like you’re a violent criminal. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Katz decides to throw the book at Valerio; not because that’s what justice demands, but because she and other NYC politicians want to send a message to anyone thinking about exercising their Second Amendment rights; you do so at your own peril. 

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