Five dead, two injured in shooting at Wendy's restaurant

NEW YORK - Police with bloodhounds searched Thursday for two gunmen who walked into a Wendy's at closing time, forced seven workers into a walk-in refrigerator and shot each in the head before robbing the restaurant. Five of the workers died.

One of the wounded workers, Patrick Castro, told police he heard a shooter say: ''We're out of bullets, put bags over their heads.''

Police want to question a former Wendy's employee wanted for robbery at another fast-food restaurant in the city, a police investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press. The investigator said a witness picked the man's picture out of a photo line-up.

According to police, it was closing time Wednesday when the gunmen walked into the restaurant in a retail area not far from Shea Stadium, where the Mets play baseball.

The two men asked for the manager by name, then went to his basement office. The manager then used an intercom to summon six employees.

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

''This is the most callous, worst crime that I've seen in a long time,'' Safir said.

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

Johnson was in critical condition Thursday. Castro was released under police protection.

Police believe robbery was the motive, and Safir said one or more of the employees knew the suspects. The police investigator said police believe up to $2,000 in cash was stolen, along with a videotape from the restaurant's security equipment.

Ed Choe, senior vice president for Wendy's operations, said the restaurant had never been robbed in its two years at that location.

On Thursday morning, hundreds of people jammed sidewalks opposite the Wendy's restaurant on Main Street in the borough of Queens.

''I felt sorry. It's my co-workers. I just left them last night,'' said Olga Purdie. ''We work together as a family.''

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


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