Break-in at Everyone Comics and Collectibles

Dimitrios Fragiskatos at Everyone Comics and Collectibles

By Charlie Finnerty | [email protected]

Everyone Comics and Collectibles at 41-26 27 Street was broken into in the early hours of Jan. 24, according to the shop’s owner Dimitrios Fragiskatos. The culprit smashed the glass door to the shop with a rock and stole cash out of the register as well as a laptop. Fragiskatos said he was alerted by a neighbor in the morning with a picture of broken glass and rushed into the shop from his home in Brooklyn. All in all, Fragiskatos estimates the combined value of the cash and the laptop stolen was roughly $500, but the damage to the store, replacing lost items and the loss of business will cost Everyone Comics around $3,500. 

“There was glass all over the inside of the store,” Fragiskatos said. “He left everything undisturbed that wasn’t the cash. We have a $2,000 Magic box of older [Magic: The Gathering] cards, we have comic books that are valued at $100 or more, and yet he did not do anything with those.”

From CCTV footage outside the store, Fragiskatos said he was able to estimate that the whole break-in took about 10 minutes.

“It started at 2:40 a.m. and all ended at 2:50,” Fragiskatos said. “And he just walked away casually with the laptop and the bag of cash.”

After surveying the damage and consulting with a repair service for the glass replacement, Fragiskatos launched an online GoFundMe fundraiser which surpassed its goal in less than a week.

“I was resistant to doing the GoFundMe at first. But we’re new, we opened up about two years ago. It’s still been month to month,” Fragiskatos said. “Our goal was 3,500 bucks. It was to just basically make rent, replace everything and we surpassed it.”

Calvin KG, a Ridgewood resident and regular customer at Everyone Comics, said his cash was likely in the register when it was robbed.

Everyone Comics and Collectibles

“This place is friendlier and happier than most comic stores,” KG said. “Moral of the story, don’t break into peoples stores. Why would you? Unless you’re desperate.”

Fragiskatos, who co-founded the store with his business partner Alex Ray two years ago, said that support from the broader comic book community was just as important as local support from people in LIC.

“There are people who contributed to the GoFundMe from outside the neighborhood,” Fragiskatos said. “I would actually say far more people contributed from the comic book community than from Queens proper, but we did have a lot of people contributing from Queens. Customers of course, but also people who I’m not familiar with.”

GoFundMe was not the only fundraising option initially considered, according to Fragiskatos.

“I thought maybe we could resell the rock [used to break the glass] as a collectible to make up our money back, but the police were like, ‘No, we have to take it for evidence,” Fragiskatos said.

Loyal customers were quick to offer their help and support after word about the break-in spread through the LIC community.

“I’d say it’s been more positive than negative,” Fragiskatos said. “Customers came in to show their support throughout the course of the day. Some of them helped me tape up the broken door with cardboard.”

Fragiskatos said that while the overwhelming support from the Queens and comic book communities has been encouraging, he hopes that support can help establish Everyone Comics as a community center in LIC.

“It’s gratifying to know that people care about a comic book store existing. It’ll keep us going for sure, but I also want to be more than a charity case for Long Island City. I want to be a place where people want to hang out,” Fragiskatos said. “It’s really up to Long Island City and the rest of Queens to decide whether we should be here. They’ve made a decision through the GoFundMe that they do want to see us here.”

The Woodhaven Beat: A Tale of Murder in Woodhaven, Part 1

By Ed Wendell

On a frigid night in February 1921, Professor Wilfred Phineas Kotkov got off the train at Boyd Avenue (88th Street) and cut across the empty lot at the corner of Benedict (87th Street) and Liberty to get to his home where he lived with his wife and two children.

Loitering beneath the station steps, four young men lay in wait with robbery and mayhem in their minds, waiting for someone who appeared prosperous enough to rob. When the professor crossed their path, they drifted behind and followed him across the dark, empty lot.

The young toughs attacked from behind and the 36-year-old professor of philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan was no match for them. Blow after blow rained down on the fallen man’s head.

When they emptied his pockets, they found that Kotkov had just a few coins and had to settle for his horn-rimmed glasses, fountain pen and gold watch before fleeing.

When police arrived at the scene, they found Kotkov lying face down in the snow, a bloody iron bedpost at his side. He was rushed to Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica where he lay in a coma.

The four young men had been spotted fleeing the scene and witnesses pointed out 2 of them loitering nearby. Police quickly apprehended Peter Nunziata and Joseph Alfano of Brooklyn and dragged them to the precinct.

The two men quickly confessed and gave up the rest of their gang, Frank Cassesso of Brooklyn and Alphonso “The Turk” Verona of Woodhaven. When Professor Kotkov died, the assault and robbery charges were upgraded to murder.

There were immediate calls for swift justice; newspaper editorials called for the ultimate retribution – the electric chair. And the wheels of justice were indeed swift.

A headline in a February 1921 edition of The Leader-Observer breaks the news that Professor Wilfred Phineas Kotkov had died from injuries sustained in a brutal attack by four young men.

Within a week, indictments were handed down and by the first week of April, just over 5 weeks after the attack, the trial of Peter Nunziata began. The 17-year-old was the youngest of the four attackers and a cool customer in court, often seen yawning during testimony.

A witness told how she watched from her kitchen window as the young men chased Professor Kotkov down and beat him. The Professor’s widow told the jury about the dreams of a happy life that had been shattered; she fainted in court when shown her late husband’s glasses and fountain pen, which had been a gift from her on his last birthday.

Nunziata’s legal defense was a vigorous one. His lawyer, Edward Reilly (who would later defend Bruno Hauptmann), declared that it was Verona of Woodhaven who killed Dr. Kotkov. He also claimed that Verona induced his client to go out on this fatal errand by intoxicating him with liquor.

When it seemed that this argument was not persuading the jury, Reilly shifted gears and claimed that his client’s confession was beaten out of him by the police and that he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Professor Wilfred Phineas Kotkov, 36-year-old professor of philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, was on his way home to his wife and 2 children when he crossed paths with four young men with robbery and mayhem in their minds.

“The detectives bungled this case, jumped to conclusions and then presented their facts to the District Attorney,” Reilly said in his summation, “It is your duty to acquit this defendant.”

But this failed to persuade the jury as they deliberated for less than an hour before coming back with a verdict of guilty. Nunziata sat unmoved as the verdict was read and as the judge explained to the young man that he would soon face death in the electric chair.

The judge set the date of execution as June 5th, about 6 weeks away. The attack, the investigation, the indictment, the trial, the deliberation and the sentencing all took place within a 105-day window. The public demanded swift justice, and they received it.

Peter Nunziata was the youngest person ever sentenced to death in New York and he received the sentence without flinching. He was escorted out of the courtroom to a car waiting to drive him to death row in Sing Sing, where “Old Sparky” was waiting.

Next week we will find out what happened to Peter Nunziata and the other defendants in the trial of the murder of Professor Wilfred Kotkov of Woodhaven.

PS Some of you may have noticed that Professor Kotkov’s home and the site of the attack are in Ozone Park. But keep in mind that in those days, that was still considered Woodhaven.

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