Elderly shoe store owner's murder could've been prevented, lawsuit claims

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- While they wait for police to arrest their father's killer, a Fresno family is fighting to prove his murder never should've happened.

George Sheklian, 85, was killed by the robbers who struck the gun store right next to his shoe repair business. A new lawsuit targets the gun store owner, claiming she knew she was a target and should've had better security, especially after another crime just a week earlier.

By now, even those who never knew George Sheklian have heard his story. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1962 with eight dollars in his pocket, then built his cobbler's business on kindness and hard work.

It all ended this past December at the age of 85. Surveillance video shows the blow that eventually killed him. A robber knocked down Sheklian as the elderly man delivered coffee to the owner of the neighboring gun store.

"This is something that could've been prevented," said John Waterman, an attorney representing the Sheklians. "There had been previous instances and we believe we can show it was a known target."

Sheklian's family says the gun store should've been a tougher target. Another thief made off with a gun in November. Just a week later, surveillance video of the robbery that killed Sheklian also shows how easy it was to get in the store.

"There were issues with the door, an issue with the security, known facts that the security measures were otherwise inadequate," Waterman said.

Fresno Firearms has since moved out of the location and into a shop with a functioning security door. The owner was able to keep an Action News reporter out who went there to ask about the lawsuit.

But ABC30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi says it'll be hard for the Sheklians to win their wrongful death lawsuit.

"Clearly there's been a number of robberies of firearms stores, guns stolen, and with those stolen guns there are robberies that happen," Capozzi said. "People are killed. People are wounded. Are they [gun store owners] required to have a heightened duty of care to the public? I'm not so sure the law says that now, but maybe this case will create some new law."

If they do win any money from the lawsuit, Sheklian's sons say they'd use it to start a charity in their dad's name, probably to help immigrants -- like their dad -- get job skills.

Meanwhile, police say they're still actively investigating the murder.

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