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Police and fire

  • Apartment residents flee smoke
    A fire smoked out some residents from their apartments and sent one person to a hospital early Tuesday. The Fort Wayne Fire Department was called about 5:10 a.m.
  • Northbound I-69 reopens in DeKalb after crash
    Northbound Interstate 69 in DeKalb County has reopened after a three-car crash closed both lanes this afternoon, Indiana State Police said.
  • Police warn of potential phone scam
    Someone is calling Kendallville residents and telling them they have won money or a new car. Kendallville police say it’s a potential scam.
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
More than 100 people crowd the sidewalk Tuesday in front of the Smoke House Tobacco Outlet on Lafayette Street to honor slain owner Antonio Niño.

Friends, family gather for slain store owner

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
José Niño thanks those who gathered Tuesday evening at the store owned by his half brother Antonio Niño, who was killed in a robbery the day before.
Surveillance photo of the gunman released by Fort Wayne police

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.