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Posted on Wed. Apr. 09, 2014 - 12:30 am EDT

Friends, family gather for slain store owner

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Tears flowed and horns blared on Lafayette Street on Tuesday night.

Family, friends, customers and passers-by paid tribute to Antonio L. Niño, who was killed during an armed robbery Monday at the tobacco shop he owned.

“I just don’t understand this, … they didn’t have to shoot him like that,” Antonio’s half brother, José Niño, said after a candlelight vigil outside the tobacco shop.

José said Antonio was his “big bro” and helped during some of the most difficult moments in life.

“He was there for me in the most desperate of times,” José said.

Antonio Niño, who recently turned 44, died at a hospital from one or more gunshot wounds after he was found in critical condition at The Smoke House Tobacco Outlet at 2217 Lafayette St., the Allen County Coroner’s Office said.

His death is the third homicide this year in Allen County and the second within Fort Wayne’s city limits.

City police are looking for the gunman and released surveillance photos of the man believed to have killed Niño.

Anthony Cronin, Antonio’s nephew, said his uncle’s younger daughter held her father’s hand to the end at the hospital.

Antonio is survived by his wife and three other children.

“He was a great guy, a hard worker and well-respected. You’ve got to be well-respected to be in this neck of the woods,” Cronin said, adding he visited Antonio at the store nearly every day.

Friend and customer Patricia Overholt echoed Cronin’s remembrances of Antonio.

“He would bend over backward to help you,” she said as she held a sign in front of the shop to draw attention to the vigil.

She said Antonio started “with almost nothing” when he decided to buy the tobacco store.

José said he remembers the day five years ago when his brother, who had lived in Fort Wayne since he was 15 years old, asked whether he wanted to join the venture.

One of the many qualities several customers and friends remembered about Antonio was his willingness to let customers pay later for what they needed at the moment.

“He was a good guy, and we’re going to miss him; … look how many people he affected,” longtime customer Huma Lik said as he gestured to the crowd of about 150 who attended the vigil.

He wondered whether the person who committed the “senseless” crime knew Antonio, or at the very least knew his daily routine of straightening up the store just after opening.

Lik was one of many at the vigil who said Antonio would otherwise have never been out from behind the counter.

That act of caution in staying behind the counter came as a result of two prior robberies, Lik said.

“What (the killer) did was beyond wrong; … this violence has to stop,” said Cronin, who’d been there all day with a sign that urged drivers to honk if they’ll miss him.

José, stricken with grief, said his brother was “one of a kind.”

“I’d like to know why they had to do this,” he said.

cmeyers@jg.net

 


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