ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Police homicide detectives are investigating a robbery turned murder at a well known southeast pizza shop, where officers say the business’ owner was killed. APD says the shooting happened around 9:21 p.m. Tuesday at Giovanni’s Pizzeria on San Pedro near Kathryn.
According to a criminal complaint, Rosario Zito was killed in the shooting. Albuquerque Police say Zito was the owner of Giovanni’s, a beloved Albuquerque restaurant that’s been open for more than 30 years.
The killing has sparked outrage and sadness in the community and among city officials, many sharing their own memories of Giovanni’s and Zito. During a previously schedule news conference Wednesday on organized retail crime, a prominent business owner and Mayor Tim Keller both spoke of their memories of the restaurant.
“I remember my entire life going to Giovanni’s,” said Mayor Keller. “I go to church right across the street from there.”
Mike Silva, owner of Rude Boy Cookies was visibly shaken by the news at that same press conference. He said he grew up going to the pizzeria.
“That was a comfort place for me and my family,” said Silva. “Scrounging up a dollar-fifty to get a slice of pizza, and Giovanni’s was a treat. I’m devastated.”
Investigators have accused Sylvan Alcachupas of shooting Zito. Alcachupas, 27, is now facing an open count of murder, robbery and evidence tampering charges.
According to a news release, APD says witnesses told investigators that Alcachupas attempted the robbery shortly after the business was closed, as employees gathered outside. Witnesses told APD that a man in dark clothing eventually walked up to employees and demanded them to empty their pockets, while pointing a gun.
Employees told APD they threw their money on the ground. After Alcachupas allegedly grabbed the $15 in tip money, witnesses told APD that the suspect began walking around the car while challenging Zito, saying, “You wanna play?” while firing a warning shot into the air. Zito is said to have pulled out a handgun and pointed it at Alcachupas.
After an exchange of gunfire, witnesses saw Zito on the ground and the suspect was going through his pockets, according to APD. Zito died of his injuries on the scene. The shooting has left other nearby business owners on edge.
“I freaked out and I got messed up mentally, and I was never expecting such a thing to happen,” said Nagib Hirji, owner of the neighboring Damacio’s Grocery and Liquor. That store sits just a door down from the pizzeria, in the same plaza.
In a Facebook post, Giovanni’s Pizzeria is remembering Zito as a kind, compassionate, and honorable man who impacted many. The business said Wednesday it would “be closed until further notice as we mourn the loss of our beloved Rosario Zito.”
Alcachupas was taken into custody sometime after the incident after officers “spotted a man matching the suspect’s description a few blocks away from the area of California and Anderson.” APD says he denied being involved in the robbery and murder. APD said Alcachupas clothing matched witness description and he is allegedly seen on security footage at the plaza the night of the killing.
Before his arrest, police say officers also saw Alcachupas hand an object to an unknown female, who ran off. That woman has not yet been caught.