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Back in Time: Rotterdam store owner endures kidnapping, shootout in 1961

Back in Time: Rotterdam store owner endures kidnapping, shootout in 1961

On Sept. 8, 1961, an angry customer kidnapped store owner Dominoco DeCarlo at gunpoint, forced him t
Back in Time: Rotterdam store owner endures kidnapping, shootout in 1961
Dominico DeCarlo looks tired &acirc;&#128;&#148; but safe &acirc;&#128;&#148; as he talks to Rotterdam Patrolman Edward VanPatten on Sept. 8, 1961. DeCarlo was kidnapped from his Rotterdam store that night and drove the kidnapper&acirc;&#128;&#153;s car d

Dominico DeCarlo did not stock bullets at his Little Super Market at 1517 Helderberg Ave. in Rotterdam.

He was dealing in lead on Friday, Sept. 8, 1961. The new product was not his idea.

DeCarlo and his co-owner and brother-in-law Benjamin Abbato of Sixth Avenue were on the job at 8:45 p.m. when a former customer walked into the store. He owed the business $80 and had moved out of the area.

“He made a few token payments after that but then stopped about six months ago,” DeCarlo said later. “I turned the matter over to the credit bureau, and that’s why he walked in last night to kill me.”

The 40-year-old visitor, described by Rotterdam police as an unemployed truck driver, carried a rifle. Abbato said he was about to attempt a disarming when the gunman proved he meant business by firing a shot into a refrigerated meat counter.

DeCarlo distracted the man long enough for Abbato to exit through the back door and for customer Francis Laven of Van Vranken Avenue to duck into the cellar and call the cops.

Abbato, now 86, said he ran to nearby Fordham Avenue and asked residents of a home to call police. He then ran back to the store to help Dominico.

Hair-raising episode

The irate man didn’t want help for anyone. He had plans for DeCarlo — he forced him into the Chrysler auto he had parked outside the store, and told him to drive.

Rotterdam Patrolman Edward VanPatten was on patrol near Helderberg and took the call. But he had not been told DeCarlo was in the car.

The lawman pulled into the store lot as DeCarlo was backing out. The rifleman pointed his weapon at the officer and threatened to shoot. VanPatten ducked behind his car and, as soon as the Chrysler began moving east on Helderberg, began pursuit.

At Curry Road, Patrolmen Gus Stiehl and John DeLaMater joined the fracas. At Ferguson Street and Fort Hunter Road, police fired two warning shots. The rifleman returned fire, shattering glass in the center of the back window.

On Highbridge Road, there were no more warning shots. Police fired about 25 shots at the car, and one hit DeCarlo’s belligerent passenger in the neck. Another blew out a tire at Devendorf Road. Several punctured the trunk.

The grocer jumped out of the car, and it was almost a fatal move. As he ran toward a nearby house, VanPatten — who did not know the frantic DeCarlo was one of the good guys — ordered “Stop or I’ll shoot.” The grocer stopped.

DeCarlo told Schenectady Gazette reporter Fred Hoekstra he never drove more than 30 mph during the ordeal.

“I wanted to go as slow as I could without getting shot,” he said. “I just kept telling him I had the accelerator down to the floorboard. I knew if the police didn’t get him, he’d kill me.”

The kidnapper was taken to Ellis Hospital in satisfactory condition. He would later face charges in Rotterdam Town Court.

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