Shopkeeper as­sault sus­pect caught

St. Thomas Times-Journal - - FRONT PAGE - JANE SIMS

Af­ter three weeks on the lam, a Lon­don man wanted for the vi­cious beat­ing of a va­ri­ety store owner has been ar­rested.

Jessie Aaron McCon­nell, 22, was picked up Mon­day in Water­loo Re­gion and charged with one count of ag­gra­vated as­sault, Lon­don po­lice said.

McCon­nell was iden­ti­fied as a sus­pect on Oct. 22, one day af­ter Ra­jaie “Roger” El Sho­rafa, 56, was found crit­i­cally in­jured out­side his va­ri­ety store at 216 Hor­ton St.

EL Sho­rafa suf­fered life-threat­en­ing head in­juries and was in crit­i­cal con­di­tion un­til last week, when his hos­pi­tal sta­tus was im­proved to fair.

No de­tails of the ar­rest have been re­leased by po­lice.

El Sho­rafa has been a fix­ture in the neigh­bour­hood for more than two decades, work­ing the small busi­ness seven days a week.

A ben­e­fit con­cert and a gofundme. com cam­paign raised money for El Sho­rafa, his wife and three chil­dren. The fam­ily came to Canada in 1994, through Kuwait, af­ter leav­ing the Pales­tinian part of Gaza.

McCon­nell re­mained out of sight since the at­tack, and, at one point, con­tacted the mother of his three­year-old child and said he planned to leave the prov­ince.

El Sho­rafa was such a fix­ture in the SoHo neigh­bour­hood, that more than $20,000 has been raised through a gofundme on­line cam­paign and a well-at­tended con­cert Nov. 3 at Call The Of­fice.

The gofundme cam­paign was started by Shelby’s Food Ex­press that’s just across the street from El Sho­rafa’s shop. The on­line do­na­tion site has raised $12,760.

“That’s great news,” said Yasser Ali, Shelby’s man­ager, when told of McCon­nell’s ar­rest.

Ali said the com­mu­nity out­pour­ing “means a lot” to El Sho­rafa’s fam­ily, whose en­tire in­come came from the small va­ri­ety store.

“The store’s been closed,” he said. “The fam­ily hasn’t been re­ceiv­ing any in­come, their bills haven’t been paid. I’m sure that this will help them get back up to date.”

Ali said he’s heard that El Sho­rafa has a long road to re­cov­ery.

“It’s a slow process,” he said and added that it could be months be­fore he can come back to work.

While El Sho­rafa’s in­juries are tragic, Ali said, the vi­o­lence “brought the com­mu­nity, es­pe­cially the SoHo com­mu­nity and the Lon­don com­mu­nity to­gether” to sup­port the shopkeeper.

Jesse McCabe, one of the or­ga­niz­ers of the con­cert, said about $7,500 was raised at the event. He called the out­pour­ing “in­cred­i­ble.”

McCabe is a drum­mer in one of the six bands that use the City Cen­tre Stor­age Group build­ing just a block from El Sho­rafa’s store who stepped up and per­formed to raise money for the fam­ily.

“That’s how it came to­gether so darn quick was I put the call out and the bands that prac­tise there came on board. It got big­ger than I ex­pected,” he said.

Not only did the SoHo com­mu­nity step up, so did many oth­ers who don’t nec­es­sar­ily fre­quent the area, but may have had even just one meet­ing with El Sho­rafa at the shop.

“Ev­ery­one re­mem­bers their in­ter­ac­tion with him be­cause he’s such a great guy,” McCabe said.

McCon­nell’s ar­rest ends some of the “loom­ing neg­a­tiv­ity” sur­round­ing the at­tack.

“Hope­fully this money can help sus­tain (the fam­ily) for a while and we’ll have our Roger at the store again,” he said.

Jessie Aaron McCon­nell

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