The family of George “Georgio” Sheklian, the elderly Fresno shoemaker who was killed by men robbing a gun store, has sued the businessowner for negligence and willful misconduct.
In the wrongful-death lawsuit, Sheklian’s wife, Mabel, and the couple’s three children contend that business owner Marilyn Panek put the public at risk for not having security measures at her gun store, Fresno Firearms, on Blackstone Avenue near Sierra Avenue.
A store surveillance video shows two masked bandits entering Fresno Firearms and robbing Panek and a customer at gunpoint on Dec. 4. After taking 13 of the store’s guns, the robbers rush out of the business.
Sheklian was bringing Panek a cup of coffee when he opened the gun shop’s front door and the two armed men darted out. They shoved him to the ground and his head hit the pavement. Sheklian, 85, died five days later at Community Regional Medical Center from major head injuries.
Fresno lawyers Ben Tryk and John Waterman, who represent the Sheklian family, said Panek knew her store was unsafe because it had been robbed a week before Sheklian was killed.
“She put the public at the mercy of criminals,” Tryk said. “Her place of business was an accident waiting to happen.”
Reached by telephone Monday, Panek declined to comment.
The lawsuit filed this month in Fresno County Superior Court says Panek “failed to take remedial precautions to assure the safety of members of the public.”
Sheklian’s shop — Georgio’s and Son, Sierra Shoe Repair — is next to Fresno Firearms. For years, he brought coffee to his shop’s neighbors every morning. “He’s a very giving man. He’s so sweet,” Panek said in an interview back in December.
According to Tryk and Waterman, a vast majority of gun stores operate safely within Fresno city limits because they either have armed security guards, or the people selling the guns are armed. In addition, gun stores often have locked doors. To get in, a customer has to be “buzzed in” by store employees
The surveillance video showed that customers could just walk into Panek’s store. She also had no armed security guard on duty nor was she armed the day Sheklian was killed, Tryk and Waterman said.
“Our understanding is that she doesn’t carry a gun and the security door was not working,” Tryk said. “That means anyone could walk in and rob the place. That’s irresponsible behavior and a lackadaisical attitude.”
The first incident happened on Nov. 29, when a man walked into Fresno Firearms to look at guns. After Panek handed the customer a 45-caliber handgun, he walked out of the store without paying for it, police said.
Jesus Sanchez, 23 and a convicted felon with arrests for multiple firearms violations, was later arrested and admitted to stealing the weapon, police said. Sanchez has pleaded not guilty in Fresno County Superior Court to charges of possession of a firearm by a felon and shoplifting in connection with the Nov. 29 theft. His trial is pending.
In the Dec. 4 armed robbery, Panek told reporters that the two armed men pointed guns at her and then “threw me on the floor.” She said they pushed her and she “pushed back” as she tried to defend the gun shop her late husband opened 20 years ago.
She also lamented about Sheklian getting knocked to the pavement. “Why did they do that to him?” she said. “He had nothing to do with this!”
Lt. Mark Salazar said Monday that police are still looking for the robbers who killed Sheklian. The two suspects in the store’s surveillance video wore masks and hooded sweatshirts but are described by police as African-American men. They were seen leaving in a white Cadillac sedan.