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The Journal Gazette

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Police work the scene of the fatal shooting of Jacob Walerko during a robbery at the Meijer gas station, 6327 Lima Road, Thanksgiving night.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017 1:00 am


Seeking meaning

Community bereft in wake of horrific crime

A vicious crime is always worthy of notice in what aspires to be a safe and orderly community, and a tragedy is always a tragedy. But the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Jacob Walerko on Thanksgiving evening is somehow especially shocking.

Authorities Monday identified Walerko as the attendant who was shot to death in a robbery at the gas station at the Meijer store on Lima Road. According to his Facebook page, Walerko had worked at Meijer since March 2016. In online posts, he is holding a cat in one picture and, in another, a puppy, and commenters remember a gentle and friendly young man.

GoFundMe sites have been established to help pay his funeral expenses and gather donations in his memory for an animal shelter.

Less than a day later, Victor M. Rivera, 21, was arrested in a trailer park just north of Meijer where he was said to have been living. The suspect served jail time last year for a felony conviction after a baby he was helping care for was hospitalized with bone fractures and severe head trauma.

Investigators should be commended for their fast work in apprehending Rivera. Some of the credit, though, should go to citizens who called in after a photo of the robber was circulated in local media. Lack of information from witnesses often hamstrings police in homicide investigations. It's encouraging that people stepped forward to help in this case.  

Walerko's death Thursday was the county's 34th homicide of the year. Already, there has been a 35th.

Heidi A. Colley, 61, was found beaten to death in her New Haven home Saturday; her 42-year-old son, Chad A. Ingram, has been charged with two counts of domestic battery.

Homicides, robberies and the overall crime rate are down in 2017, according to FBI statistics. Though robberies are relatively commonplace – there have been 8,059 so far this year – holdup-related killings are rare in Fort Wayne. To victims and their families and friends, of course, violent crime is always devastating and unacceptable. 

Surveillance video of the Thanksgiving-evening killing viewed by police shows the robber shooting Walerko in the head with what appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun, then jumping over the counter to steal a carton of Newport cigarettes before fleeing.

It was a truly senseless crime. What appears to have been a horrific decision of the moment has left a young man dead, friends and family grieving, and an even younger man facing the consequences.