Monday September 10, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A knife-wielding teenager was arrested at gunpoint late Saturday after he allegedly threatened immigrant workers at a city pizzeria, saying he wanted to kill them and cut their eyes out, Pittsfield police said.

Aaron Shaw, 19, of Atlantic Avenue, attracted the attention of workers at Paparazzi Friendly Pizza in the Elm Street Shops around 10:20 p.m. when he allegedly smashed the office window of the adjacent Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts.

Baris Oziyrt, manager of the pizzeria, said he called police when he saw Shaw throw his body at the window, cutting himself on the glass. Oziyrt said he called police a second time after Shaw entered the pizzeria, displaying a switchblade.

"I was mopping when I saw him with the knife," said employee Murat Celik. "He was saying, 'I'm American, I'll kill you. You are an immigrant, I want to cut your eyes [out].' "

A security camera recording appears to shows the suspect at least twice making a slashing gesture across his throat and pointing toward the kitchen, where the employees had retreated.

Police arrived as Shaw was leaving the restaurant. They immediately drew their weapons and arrested Shaw without incident.

Shaw was taken to Berkshire Medical Center, where he as treated for cuts and bruises and released back into police custody.

The employees said they had never seen Shaw before Saturday's incident and had no idea what prompted his threat. Police say they are still investigating the incident.

Esref Yildiz, owner of the pizzeria, said his son, along with two other Turkish immigrants were closing for the night when the incident occurred. Yildiz, also a Turkish immigrant, told The Eagle on Sunday he's never had a problem since he opened his take-out eatery two years ago.

Shaw faces three counts each of civil rights violations and armed assault with intent to intimidate, as well as charges relating to the smashed window.

He is being held in the city lockup on $25,000 cash bail pending his arraignment today in Central Berkshire District Court.

The office of the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts will be closed today and will re-open on Tuesday, according to a sign posted on the boarded-up storefront.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.