Shooting victim, 72, 'knew what he had to do,' son says
Son: Man who died trying to save friend wasn't afraid
By Francesca Jarosz
Posted: July 4, 2008
Mario Gonzalez-Tello passed most of his nights socializing over Polish sausage or Italian beef at his favorite gyro restaurant.
He'd often arrive about 9:30 p.m., stay until the restaurant closed at 11 p.m. and walk out as the employees locked up.
That's what happened Monday, when Gonzalez, 72, was fatally shot while trying to defend a female employee. According to police, she was being robbed at gunpoint across the parking lot of Mr. Gyro's, 5358 W. 38th St. Gonzalez pulled the revolver he often carried underneath his shirt for protection. But the woman's assailant fired four or five shots, hitting Gonzalez from 60 feet away.
Police said Thursday they were continuing to look for leads on the gunman.
Gonzalez's neighbors in his Westside subdivision say he was a quiet and unexpected hero. He lived more than 20 years in the neighborhood, all of them alone, keeping mostly to his modest, one-story brick home and exchanging waves, but rarely words, with them.
"The Bible says that a friend would lay down a life for his friends. He lived that," said James Macon, a minister who lives across the street and the only neighbor who said Gonzalez regularly spoke to him. "A person's innermost part doesn't show on the outside."
Gonzalez moved to Indianapolis from Peru when he was 18. He joined the U.S. Army and, soon after serving, took a job as a tool and die maker at Allison Transmission on West 10th Street. He worked there for more than 30 years, many of them on the night shift, said Aldo Gonzalez, the youngest of Mario's four children, who lives in Auburn.
Gonzalez was working until about a month ago, when he had quadruple bypass surgery. He had planned to return to work next week, often citing the motto "If I rest, I rust."
His children described him as a meticulous and conscientious man with a practical nature and a blunt honesty that could be polarizing.
A diabetic, he wrote down his blood sugar every time he read it and kept records of his readings for years. He always insisted that his kids wash their hands before meals, even as adults.
"He was very concerned about always doing the right thing," Aldo Gonzalez said. If, for example, his father were undercharged at a restaurant, he would insist on straightening out the bill. "He always wanted what was fair."
Gonzalez divorced about 35 years ago but remained a loyal father and had frequent visits with his children. Family was important to him, they said, and it pained him that his eldest son, Mario Jr., was the only one of his children to remain in Indianapolis.
Mr. Gyro's was one of a handful of restaurants where Gonzalez had become a regular and socialized with the employees, said owner Nick Tsoukalas, whose sister Gonzalez was defending when he lost his life.
Tsoukalas and Gonzalez became friends about 10 years ago when Gonzalez began frequenting the restaurant. Sometimes they would go out for coffee to talk about politics and sports.
"Most of the time we talked about food because he liked to eat a lot," Tsoukalas said.
Gonzalez ate breakfast a few mornings a week at the Downtown Shapiro's.
Norma Vester, who prepared his regular breakfast of eggs, rye toast and watermelon, said Gonzalez would comment about her being a good worker and often joked with her that she needed roller skates to make her food deliveries more quickly. Sometimes, she said, he'd stay at the restaurant for hours, watching people eat.
Aldo Gonzalez said his dad had a license to carry his weapon and did so for protection. He said that in the 15 to 20 years that his father carried the gun, he hadn't drawn it until the night he was shot.
"He was a guy who was not afraid," Aldo said. "He was also the guy who in that moment knew what he had to do.
"He attempted to help, and he paid for it with his life."
Call Star reporter Francesca Jarosz at (317) 444-6310.