December 20, 1995 in Nation/World

Gunman Kills Five In Shoe Store

New York Daily News

A gunman turned a Bronx shoe store into a point-blank shooting gallery Tuesday, killing five people and wounding three in a botched robbery before he was shot by a cop and captured on a snowy street.

The bloodshed erupted about 11:50 a.m. when the gunman, who relatives said had a history of mental illness, began firing without warning in Little Chester Shoes.

Among the victims were a mother and her two sons - the youngest was trying on sneakers when he died - and the wife of the shop owner, police said.

The shop owners were celebrating their wedding anniversary Tuesday.

The suspect, Michael Vernon, 22, went into the store repeatedly in recent weeks asking about brown Nike boots as a ruse so he could plan a robbery, said Bronx Chief of Detectives Charles Kammerdener.

The high school dropout has an arrest record, suffers from schizophrenia and was taking two anti-psychotic drugs, relatives said.

Police found an AK-47 automatic rifle in his apartment.

Vernon’s Czech-made semiautomatic was recovered at the scene with one bullet left in the clip, police said.

Vernon, who was being held in the killings, told his family he wanted to wear the brown Nike boots to a Christmas party for his therapy group.

However, he made statements to police Tuesday night that his plan was to rob the store, sources said.

He was wounded by a highway cop’s shotgun blast when he bolted from the store and limped another half-block before an off-duty cop tackled him, said Chief of Department Louis Anemone.

The violent spree was the second mass murder in the city in two weeks. Eight people - including the arsonist-gunman - were killed when a shooting and fire erupted in a Harlem discount clothing store Dec. 8 after a bitter tenant-landlord dispute.

Vernon has an arrest record for robbery and two assaults and was “the local bad guy out of the 47th Precinct,” said one investigator.

Despite his criminal record and the viciousness of the killings, Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson said Tuesday night he would not seek the death penalty.


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