Man sentenced to maximum in shooting death of neighborhood grocery store owner

·5 min read
A memorial has been growing for 34-year-old Chernet Tiruneh who was shot and killed while working at Chappa Grocery Store on Grande Ave. Tuesday night, April 28. By Thursday, April 30, the memorial had grown to dozens of candles, flowers and dozens of messages written on the steps and siding of the shop.
A memorial has been growing for 34-year-old Chernet Tiruneh who was shot and killed while working at Chappa Grocery Store on Grande Ave. Tuesday night, April 28. By Thursday, April 30, the memorial had grown to dozens of candles, flowers and dozens of messages written on the steps and siding of the shop.

UPDATE (May 24, 2022): The man convicted of fatally shooting the owner of a popular Beechwood neighborhood grocery store during an attempted robbery in 2020 has received the maximum prison sentence.

In state Supreme Court on Monday, Alexander Laureano, now 29, was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for the April 28, 2020 shooting death of Chernet Tiruneh, 34, at Chappa Grocery, 202 Grand Ave., according to the Monroe County District Attorney's Office.

“Chernet Tiruneh was a cherished member of this community. His senseless murder deserved justice,” said District Attorney Sandra Doorley. “Chernet came to this country and worked tirelessly for his family and his community. Alexander Laureano had no regard for the law when he brutally took the life of a beloved community member for a quick attempt at money.”

Gilberto Rivera, now 32, was also charged with second-degree murder in connection with Tiruneh's death. He remains in the Monroe County Jail without bail. His next court date is not listed.

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UPDATE (March 22, 2022): A Rochester man was convicted in the 2020 shooting death of the popular Beechwood neighborhood grocery store owner during an attempted robbery.

A state Supreme Court jury on Monday convicted Alexander Laureano on Monday of second-degree murder, first-degree manslaughter, two counts of attempted first-degree robbery and attempted second-degree robbery, all felonies, in the April 28, 2020 shooting death of Chernet Tiruneh, 34, at Chappa Grocery, 202 Grand Ave.

Laureano, now 29, demanded money from Tirunet as he was behind the counter. Tiruneh reached for his legally registered gun and Laureano shot and killed him, according to the Monroe County DIstrict Attorney's Office.

Tiruneh, who was also known as "Alex" or "Chappa," was "well known and loved by his family, friends and neighborhood residents. He had emigrated from Ethiopia a decade earlier, became a U.S. citizen, and bought the small grocery store. Friends said Tiruneh often worked there from open to close, 16 hour days to support his extended family.

“After two years, today’s conviction provides justice for Chernet Tiruneh’s friends, family and the community he served,” said Assistant District Attorney Michael Harrigan, who prosecuted the case with ADA Kristin Sippel. “The past years have been traumatic for Mr. Tiruneh’s family and they can rest assured today knowing that the man responsible for Chernet’s death faces a life sentence."

District Attorney Sandra Doorley described Tiruneh as a "staple and cherished member" of the community.

“Alexander Laureano’s despicable actions took away a beloved and hardworking man from his family for a quick attempt at money,” Doorley said.

Gilberto Rivera, now 32, was also charged with second-degree murder in connection with Tiruneh's death. He remains in the Monroe County Jail without bail. His next court date is scheduled for April 18.

Laureano is set to be sentenced in state Supreme Court on May 9.

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UPDATE (March 23, 2021): A second man was charged last week in connection with the April 2020 shooting death of Chernet Tiruneh, 34, at Chappa Grocery, 202 Grand Ave.

Rochester Police Capt. Frank Umbrino announced that Alexander Laureano, 28, of Rochester last week was apprehended and was charged with second-degree murder, attempted first-degree robbery and attempted second-degree robbery, all felonies, in connection with the homicide of the popular Beechwood neighborhood grocery store owner. Laureano was arraigned Monday afternoon in state Supreme Court and was remanded to the Monroe County Jail without bail. This second arrest comes 11 months after the homicide.

Last year, Gilberto Rivera, 30, was charged with second-degree murder in connection with Tiruneh's death. He remains in the Monroe County Jail without bail and is scheduled to return to court next week.

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ORIGINAL STORY (June 16, 2020): Rochester police announced an arrest in the slaying of a popular Beechwood neighborhood grocery store owner Tuesday.

Gilberto Rivera, 30, of Rochester is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of Chernet Tiruneh, 34, on April 20 at Chappa Grocery, 202 Grand Ave.

Rivera was taken into custody by RPD's tactical unit Tuesday and will be arraigned Wednesday morning in Rochester City Court.

Tiruneh, who owned the store, was shot dead inside his establishment about 9:20 p.m., police said. Officers were called to the store for the report of a man shot.

Tiruneh, who was also known as "Alex" or "Chappa," was "beloved not only by his family, but also the members of the Beechwood neighborhood," Capt. Frank Umbrino said.

A memorial has been growing for 34-year-old Chernet Tiruneh who was shot and killed while working at Chappa Grocery Store on Grande Ave. Tuesday night, April 28. By Thursday, April 30, the memorial had grown to dozens of candles, flowers and dozens of messages written on the steps and siding of the shop.
A memorial has been growing for 34-year-old Chernet Tiruneh who was shot and killed while working at Chappa Grocery Store on Grande Ave. Tuesday night, April 28. By Thursday, April 30, the memorial had grown to dozens of candles, flowers and dozens of messages written on the steps and siding of the shop.

Tiruneh emigrated from Ethiopia 10 years ago, became a U.S. citizen, and bought the small grocery store. Friends said Tiruneh often worked there from open to close, 16 hour days to support his extended family.

Police described it as a "heinous crime." Last month, police announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for his death.

Tiruneh's friends and family raised half of that money, which is being matched by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

Deputy Chief Mark Mura of the Rochester Police Department said Tiruneh's killing was most likely the result of a robbery attempt, but that the investigation is ongoing and police need help to solve the case.

"Alex was the eldest son, working to provide for seven family members and his parents," said Shakeel Cheema, a longtime friend and fellow store owner. "All he was doing was working hard."

Contact Will Cleveland at wcleveland@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @willcleveland13, Facebook @willcleveland13, and Instagram @clevelandrocThis coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Sign up today for a digital subscription.

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Alexander Laureano sentenced in death of Chernet Tiruneh