Greencastle, Pennsylvania

Same store robbed again

From Chambersburg’s PublicOpinionOnline.com of August 3, 2007

Store owner shoots robbery suspect

Four months ago, after a series of break-ins at his convenience store, Merlony “Jason” Colaco nabbed a robbery suspect and used his shotgun to hold her at bay until police arrived.

Thursday morning, he confronted another suspect, only this time, he fired.

“I shot that guy, not because he was stealing, but because he came to me and was attacking me,” Colaco said. “This was the first time I ever fired a gun. I never even hunted before.”

Police said Colaco, owner of Molly Pitcher Mini-Mart of 13640 Molly Pitcher Highway, shot Thomas Philip Candeloro Jr., 44, of Baltimore, after he and two other white men broke into the store at 1:46 a.m. to steal cartons of cigarettes.

When Colaco confronted the men with his shotgun, a fight broke out that resulted in Candeloro being shot, police said.

Candeloro’s alleged accomplices reportedly fled, but he was taken to Washington County Hospital, where he was treated and released, according to a hospital spokesperson.

Police said charges of robbery, burglary, theft and conspiracy are pending against him.

Calaco’s store is just off of Interstate 81. For several months it has been the site of several break-ins and robberies.
Colaco’s account

Speaking from his store on Thursday afternoon, Colaco said he felt bad about the whole situation and that he was still shaken by it all.

After the arrest of the robbery suspect in April, he thought the crimes were over and he could stop camping out in his
store after it closed at 10 p.m.

But two weeks ago, he said someone broke into his back door and took two cartons of Marlboro cigarettes. Three days later, someone stole 15 to 16 bags of ice from the container in front of the store.

During that same period, he said, someone threw a rock through the window of another area business.

Once again, Colaco had had enough.

As he’d done in the past, he grabbed his shotgun and began sleeping in his office. He listened for sounds and closely watched the security camera. At 1:40 a.m., he heard the sound of the cowbell attached to his door.

He looked at the security camera and saw three men violently shaking the door, trying to get in, he said. Eventually, they made it inside and began to fill two trash cans with cigarettes.

Remembering how he scared a previous robbery suspect and held her at bay, Colaco said he walked out to confront the men while holding his shotgun. But instead of being scared, one of the men approached him as if he didn’t care about the gun, Colaco said.

“I had the safety lock on my gun and I became nervous and couldn’t remove it,” Colaco recalled. “He came toward me and I backed up.”

The man turned and ran outside. The second man, who was much bigger than the first, Colaco said, took a trash can filled with merchandise.

“Hold it,” Colaco called out to him. But the man simply looked at Colaco and walked outside.

However, when the third man, Candeloro, walked up to Colaco, he showed more aggression, Colaco said. “He lifted the trash can and threw it at me.”

Colaco shouted for him to stop. “Hold it,” he said. “Or I’ll shoot.”

Candeloro reportedly ignored the warnings and started walking toward Colaco. “Stop!” Colaco shouted.

He kept coming.

Colaco pulled the trigger, shooting him in his left side, near the stomach.

“I thought I’d missed, because he just walked away. But after he walked through the door, he collapsed.” He began yelling for his friends. He tried to get up but fell down.

Pennsylvania State Police called in response to the store’s alarm system. “Send an ambulance, I shot a guy,” Colaco said.

When he looked outside, he saw Candeloro crawling, trying to walk. He crawled a distance and stood up, only to fall again. “You shot me…I’m gonna sue you!” he told the store owner.

Colaco said he was troubled by the incident. “I felt bad for him,” he said. “I never shot anyone before. I never even hunted.”

He said he didn’t know how much longer he could put up with the crime.

Earlier crime spree

Earlier this year, Colaco was credited with catching Erica Marie Lynch, 19, of 128 S. Jefferson St., Greencastle, after she allegedly broke into his store on March 28 to steal cigarettes for drug money, according to court documents filed with the office of Magisterial District Judge Duane K. Cunningham.

When arrested, Lynch told police that she and her live-in boyfriend, Joshua Lance Ingream, 19, and their friend, James Edward Byrd Jr., 43, Chambersburg, had burglarized “multiple places” in Pennsylvania and Maryland, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

Lynch was charged with two counts of burglary and theft by unlawful taking. Ingream was charged with three counts of burglary, three counts of theft by unlawful taking and two counts of criminal mischief. Byrd, however, was placed in Franklin County Prison. He was charged with burglary, theft and criminal mischief.

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