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Five Slain at NYC Restaurant

May 26, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Main Street in Flushing is a melting pot of working families, a relatively safe neighborhood in Queens forever scarred by the deaths of five Wendy’s restaurant employees.

``I felt sorry. It’s my co-workers. I just left them last night,″ said Olga Purdie, among the hundreds of people who jammed sidewalks opposite the Wendy’s hours after Wednesday night’s shooting. ``We work together as a family. We work together as one.″

Police today were searching for a former Wendy’s employee, arrested in a McDonald’s robbery last June in Queens, a police investigator who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press. The man, wanted for questioning, missed an earlier court date and a warrant was issued for his arrest, published reports said.

Police said two gunmen walked into the restaurant at closing time Wednesday night, killed the employees and took about $2,000. Two employees survived and were able to call 911 for help.

``This is the most callous, worst crime that I’ve seen in a long time,″ Police Commissioner Howard Safir said Thursday. He said one or more of the employees knew the suspects.

The suspects asked for the manager by name, then went to his basement office, police said. The manager then summoned the six remaining employees over an intercom.

The gunmen ordered the six men and one woman into a walk-in refrigerator, bound and gagged them, told them to lie face down and shot them, Safir said. Four died at the scene, one on the way to the hospital.

The two survivors _ identified by police as Joaquione Johnson, 18, and Patrick Castro, 23 _ were able to partially free themselves and get to a basement telephone. Castro, who was shot through both cheeks, helped Johnson upstairs as police arrived.

Castro was released and placed under police protection. Johnson remained hospitalized in critical condition Thursday.

Johnson’s brother said the shooters’ intention was clear.

``They killed them all execution style,″ Kevin Johnson said. ``Everybody that was there got shot in the face, or shot in the head.″

A woman at a nearby bus stop told police she saw two men leave the Wendy’s around the time of the shooting, and picked the former employee’s picture out of a photo lineup, the investigator said.

The investigator said police believe up to $2,000 in cash was stolen, along with a videotape from the restaurant’s security equipment.

The five workers killed were identified by police as Ramon Nazario, 44; Anita C. Smith, 23; Jeremy Mele Ryan, 18; Ali Ibadat, 40; and Jean Aguste, 27.

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