Restaurateur thankful for police response

Published 11:07 am Wednesday, December 21, 2011

To the Editor:

I received a phone call from the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office at 1:20 in the morning Monday to inform me that my restaurant, Joe’s Pizza and Pasta Palace on Carrsville Highway in Franklin, had been vandalized.

I was upset because I had a tough time trying to keep the business going after the paper mill shut down, and I was thinking to myself, “What else is God going to throw at me this year?”

Driving those 10 miles from my house to the restaurant, I was having this déjà vu feeling. I wondered if the thief broke in the same way as last year — not through the chimney like the Grinch because the restaurant does not have one — but through the exhaust system. Once there, it was obvious from the two broken glass doors how the crime was committed.

A young police officer was on the scene; the blinding flashing lights from his car were on. He was talking to the neighbor who called 911.

While smoking a cigarette outside her house, she saw the intruder pick up a box and run out of the restaurant toward the next-door apartment complex where he had his car parked, and he fled from there.

An investigator, J.P. Hopko, arrived shortly after; he exchanged information with police and started looking around for evidence and fingerprints.

I watched with admiration at the two officers working diligently. You definitely look at an officer running to the rescue in the middle of the night during the holiday season differently than one who is handing you a speeding ticket.

I couldn’t help but ask God to bless these officers and their families.

Then, I started thinking about the calls I should make to the glass company and the insurance company, but more importantly, I started to think about ways to replace the broken doors and block this 35-degree cold air from blowing into the restaurant.

Realizing my distress, the investigator nailed a piece of plywood to the door and covered it with plastic. I was relieved. By the time we taped all the plastic, it was almost 5 in the morning.

Hopko did not have to, but he stayed with me until my restaurant was secure again. This was a call beyond duty. I am so humbled by the dedication and kindness of this investigator.

Driving home, exhausted by the whole ordeal but softened by the kindness that Hopko showed me, I thought to myself the Grinch might have stolen my register box and did a lot of collateral damages to Joe’s Pizza and Pasta Italian restaurant, but he certainly did not and could not steal the spirit of Christmas.

May God bless all our police officers this Christmas and throughout the New Year … and whether Joe’s restaurant’s Grinch gets caught or not, I pray that he’ll have a change of heart this holiday season.

Joe Misseri