NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) Niagara Falls Police continue to investigate but have not made a determination as to the nature of death for a well known Niagara Falls deli owner.
“That morning, when I got up, I texted him about the Christmas gifts,” said Geria Hunt, who knew something was wrong Tuesday morning when her grandfather hadn’t responded to her texts and calls for hours. She walked to his home on Calumet Avenue and found him in his bedroom dead of a gunshot and holding a gun in his hand.
But his wife, Pricilla Richardson does not believe this was suicide. She believes he may have been murdered by the same people who robbed him two weeks ago. “Two weeks ago, he chases them down the alley, they come through the window, they steal all his money, his house keys, everything from him. Then, they put blocks in his restaurant, corks in his door, so they could come back. It was an intent to kill. They killed him Monday. Monday, I have a bank statement. He went to the bank at 9:30 that morning. They killed him that afternoon.”
Jessie Richardson, 69, had three great grand children, and was best known for owning and operating Richardson’s Deli on Highland Avenue in the Falls.
“The kids. He loved the kids that come in there and they would always order cheese fries, and even if they were fifty cents or a quarter, would still just give them the cheese fries and have an encouraging word,” said his granddaughter, Geria Hunt.
“If you really had a problem, he left the Bible was always open on his counter at his restaurant business and if you got anything bad on your mind, he’d tell you right there there’s a verse in the bible right there for you,” said Girard Hunt, his grandson, who recalled his encouraging words. “No matter what you’re going through, tomorrow’s better day…God granted us with another 24 hours. It’s gonna be a better day.”
Owen Steed, a Niagara County Legislator, used to work across the street from the deli and spent many days talking with Richardson. He calls him a mentor and role model. “I’m hoping this community, if it was foul play, if somebody knows something, say something. You know we can’t be on Facebook telling the family how much we love the m and then we sit back and let this happen,” said Steed. “Just an all around good guy, he’s gonna be really missed.”
Officials tell News 4 they are investigating the incident as an “unattended death” in which the protocol is treat it as if it could be a homicide until further notice. No autopsy has been scheduled but will be performed.
The police department says Richardson is well known and respected in the community, and enjoyed serving the youth from the neighborhood, which gave him time to mentor them. he had worked in the deli on Monday afternoon.
“It is with great sadness that we heard the tragic news of the untimely death of Jessie Richardson. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and many friends, who have suffered this grievous loss during what should be a joyous holiday season. Jessie was a pillar of the business and culinary communities, and a stalwart of Highland Avenue, but his loss will be mourned by people of all walks of life in all parts of the city. On behalf of all the citizens of the city he loved, I offer my deepest sympathies and most sincere hopes that his legacy in the community will long be remembered and honored,” Mayor Paul Dyster said.