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Crime-and-courts
AUBURN
Three arrested for Auburn store fight, including owner
  • Updated

The Auburn Police Department has arrested three people in connection with a fight at downtown convenience store All-American Mart in May, including the owner of the store, which has since closed.

Zachary Pelosi-Dahl, 29, of Camillus, who opened the store in June 2020, was arrested over the past week along with Charles Williams Jr., 44, of Auburn, and Camille A. Racona, 31, of Auburn. 

According to a news release from APD, a group of people gathered at the 31 Loop Road store at about 8 p.m. May 19 to confront Pelosi-Dahl "in regards to an issue surrounding another individual." The confrontation then escalated from verbal to physical, primarily between the store owner and Williams. Pepper spray, tasers, knives and batons are alleged to have been used, police said.

As a result, Pelosi-Dahl sustained a laceration on his head and Williams sustained a stab wound that was treated at Upstate University Hospital. A third unidentified person was also injured. 

Pelosi-Dahl damaged a vehicle in the parking lot while leaving the scene, police said. About 20 cruisers from APD, the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office and the New York State Police responded, as well as the Auburn Fire Department and two ambulances. While searching the All-American Mart, police located metal knuckle knives for sale and more than 10,000 untaxed cigarettes.

The fight and subsequent search of the store led police to charge Pelosi-Dahl with three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, one count of second-degree criminal mischief and one count of possession of 10,000 or more unstamped cigarettes, all felonies. He turned himself into police Tuesday, APD said, and was released on his own recognizance after being arraigned.

Williams was arrested on July 14 on the felony charges of second-degree assault and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, and the misdemeanor of fifth-degree conspiracy. He was arraigned and remanded to the Cayuga County Jail. Racona, who was part of the group of people that confronted Pelosi-Dahl with Williams, was also arrested on July 14 on the felony charge of fourth-degree grand larceny for allegedly possessing and operating a stolen motor vehicle. She was released on an appearance ticket.

APD asks anyone with further information on the fight to contact Detective Nicholas Atkins at (315) 255-4703 or the department at (315) 253-3231. Callers may remain anonymous.

Provided 

From left, Charles Williams Jr., Camille A. Racona and Zachary Pelosi-Dahl.

'An absolute nuisance'

The fight was the culmination of what neighboring businesses say was an undesirable atmosphere at All-American Mart since Pelosi-Dahl opened the store last summer. 

Hours after the fight happened, Year of the Dragon Tattoo next-door posted on Facebook that the convenience store was "an absolute nuisance." 

"Us and a lot of our clients have seen the activities going on: fights, dirty hypodermic needles laying around, abundance of trash deliberately thrown throughout the parking lot. Hit and runs in the parking lot," said the post, which has since been deleted. Year of the Dragon did not respond to a request for comment by The Citizen. 

Joseph Catalfano, who owns the building that contains the 31 Loop Road space as well as upstairs business Quality Rental Purchase and Sales, told The Citizen on July 7 that he and Pelosi-Dahl came to a "mutual decision" shortly after the fight that the All-American Mart should close due to "the groups of people who were hanging around, or coming quickly and leaving," he said.

"We don't like to have that element around the building," he said. 

Despite the atmosphere there, police were not called to the store often, Catalfano said.

APD Capt. Kyle Platt confirmed that, saying there have been 12 calls to 31 Loop Road since 2018. But several of them were traffic stops and motor vehicle accidents in the vicinity, he added.

Catalfano also told The Citizen July 7 that he would like to replace the All-American Mart with a "nice, quiet tenant." Since then, local wellness business Crystal Clear Life Coaching has announced that it will open a coaching center at the space. Prior to the convenience store, it was occupied by The Good Shepherds Brewing Co., which moved to the corner of Genesee and William streets in 2018.


The Oddz perform during the Rock the Top concert series on the top level of the Auburn city parking garage on Wednesday. Go to auburnpub.com for more photos and video.


Education
EDUCATION
Auburn school board meeting goes from silent protest to shouting match
  • Updated

With a few exceptions, Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education meetings have attracted few if any members of the public over the last few years.

But since a district budget hearing in mid-May, residents have been turning out in increasing numbers to air out a variety of concerns. Those include the process involved in a possible renaming of the high school that was later paused by the board, concerns that board members were using their positions to implement their personal and political agendas, and complaints that the board has not taken school bullying seriously enough. 

On Tuesday, with the agenda including the election of a board president and vice president for the 2021-22 fiscal year, the high school library was packed for the board's regular meeting. By the time it was over, people were shouting and extra police officers had arrived.

Board members Ian Phillips and Dr. Eli Hernandez were voted to those respective roles at the beginning of the meeting. After the board moved through its routine agenda, the time came for the public to be heard portion, a change from the normal routine of taking public comments toward the start of meetings. Auburn district Superintendent Jeff Pirozzolo said one reason for moving public comment to the end of the meeting is that often, residents speak and then leave, but he said he would be available at the end of the meeting to answer specific questions.

Parent Rachel Czyz, who ran for a school board seat earlier this year, was the first person scheduled to speak. She introduced herself at the library's podium, and then said nothing. Instead, she and the other people lined with her held up folders with messages written on them such as "Accountability," "Transparency NOW," "YOU ARE NOT LISTENING" "We will be watching!" "Every child MATTERS" and "STOP HARASSING US."

This group, which included adults and students, stood in silence with their makeshift signs for over a minute before people in the back of the room, began humming the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is often called the "Black National Anthem." One person in the crowd said they felt the humming was inappropriate. Another questioned how it was inappropriate, while others, including parent Michele Rivoli, interjected that the people humming needed to stop.

A woman in the group, who did not identify herself, spoke up to say her daughter had been attacked two days prior at a district bathroom. With her voice cutting through the room, she said her daughter had been bullied for years without anything being done.

As Czyz's time to speak expired, Rivoli then took to the microphone and spoke up, asking the board members to read the signs displayed, and saying the group would appreciate it if the board president didn't roll his eyes while the group was speaking. Rivoli then said the board uses "bully tactics" and addressed Phillips directly. Another voice chimed in with "Do you guys really care at all?"

"We can't engage when you bring individuals into it. I'd be happy to have a discussion when we close this meeting," Phillips said. He and Rivoli then spoke back and forth, and as another voice in the crowd spoke up, Phillips asked that one person speak at a time, noting there was a limited amount of time for public comments. Rivoli replied that the board extended time for people to speak in January, when various students and adults advocated for the high school name change at a virtual meeting.

"You extended the time when everybody was here supporting what your agenda was. In this particular case, you have intentionally tried to create a situation because you don't want to hear what we have to say. That's why we're trying not to talk," Rivoli said, using her folder to point at the board. "Because you don't hear us, because you don't care. It gets in the way of your own personal and political agendas. We've had enough, and we will be taking our concerns to the (state education) commissioner."

Following a pause, another voice spoke out in the crowd, and Rivoli said she would speak for that person. Phillips said she couldn't do that, and shouting filled the room until parent Elizabeth A. Cuddy took the microphone and moved to the podium.

Cuddy said "this is not about the name change" and that many more people beyond those at the meetings have concerns. 

"There are people who are afraid to come out and show their face and speak because they're afraid their children will be retaliated (against,) they're afraid they won't be employed by the district," she continued. "There are many, many more people, so please, I promise you, it is not just the people who show up to the meetings. There are many, many people intimidated."

Judy Garrett, a district employee, next came to the podium and defended Phillips and what he has done for the district, noting his efforts to advocate for more state aid. One person then asked Garrett if she was on the list to speak, which prompted more shouting.

"Order! This is a really, really bad example for our children," Phillips said, which prompted some claps from the audience. Rivoli shouted that Phillips was a bad example.

Phillips then said the 15 minutes set aside for public comments was up, and added that "we would love to extend the time, but we're not going to do it when people are shouting with each other," saying he would talk to people about their concerns. As Rivoli shouted that their group didn't need to be lectured, the board voted to adjourn the meeting.

Several people began yelling over each other at this point. A man in the crowd starting yelling at Hernandez, who got out of his chair and walked into the crowd. He and the man confronted each other, as concerns such as critical race theory came up. The man repeatedly said "You're dismissed" to Hernandez. Other verbal confrontations continued until school resource officer William Morrissey of the Auburn Police Department raised his voice to say that the meeting was over. The yelling dissipated somewhat and people started leaving the library.

By that point additional APD officers had arrived at the school, with around seven to eight patrol vehicles in the parking lot. Some officers were in the lobby while others were in the lot.

According to APD call records, Dia Carabajal called police at about 8:15 p.m. Tuesday to report what the call log classified as a fight at the high school. Carabajal, who was at the meeting and is a former school board member and former city councilor, is now the chair for the Cayuga County Democratic Committee. Phillips held that position for six years before he resigned from the role last month and soon declared his intention to seek the board presidency.

School resource officers have been present at school board meetings since May as crowds have become larger. But that will change.

Roger Anthony, APD deputy chief, said in an interview with The Citizen Wednesday that the department doesn't feel it is appropriate for SROs to be at those meetings and doesn't plan on having SROs at board meetings in that capacity in the future.

Road patrol officers would be at meetings if requested, but Anthony said the APD doesn't feel SROs should be at board meetings. 

"The school board is an elected body. If they're having political issues, that's not what the purpose of SROs are. Our SROs are there for the kids, for school security, for mentorship, for building relationships, and that's where we will place them," Anthony said.


Local
CENTRAL NEW YORK
Citing driver shortage, Centro to offer limited Park-N-Ride service for NYS Fair
  • Updated

Centro will offer shuttles during the New York State Fair, but limited service will be available due to a driver shortage. 

The Park-N-Ride shuttles will be available from Centro's downtown Syracuse hub, Destiny USA in Syracuse and Long Branch Park in the town of Geddes. Fairgoers can park at those locations and ride a bus to the fair's main gate. Parking at Destiny USA and Long Branch Park will be free. 

A full schedule for the fair Park-N-Ride service will be available in the coming days, according to Centro. The cost will be $2 for adults and $1 for seniors, individuals with disabilities and children ages 6-9. Masks will be required to ride the shuttles. 

Centro will offer free rides from the fair's Orange Lot and the Willis Avenue parking lot. 

There will be significantly fewer Park-N-Ride locations for this year's fair, which runs from Aug. 20 through Sept. 6. During the 2019 fair, there were more sites in Onondaga County and a few in Cayuga County — Fingerlakes Mall in Aurelius, Jreck Subs in Weedsport and the village office in Port Byron. There was also a Park-N-Ride location in Elbridge, not far from the Cayuga-Onondaga county line. 

But according to Brian Schultz, Centro's CEO, the agency is being affected by a shortage of bus drivers. It's a nationwide problem for the industry. 

"This decision was made after careful consideration of our projected staffing during the fair and our ongoing commitment to our daily transit services that are critical for the communities we serve," Schultz said. "Limiting our services to these three locations will allow us to maintain our current daily service, maximize the use of our workforce and deliver a dependable service for fairgoers." 

In its Park-N-Ride announcement, Centro said that it is hiring bus drivers, mechanics and servicer/cleaners. The job listings are available on Centro's website at centro.org


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