Center Square Journal has learned that an at-large suspect in the O’Lanagan’s Tavern murder was punched out on the sidewalk in front of the bar three weeks earlier by a man who had been remodeling the Northcenter tavern at 2335 W. Montrose Ave, several witnesses to the fight said, fleshing out what prosecutors have named as the motive in the 2009 slaying.
In the three weeks between the September 11, 2009 fight and the October 4 murder of bar owner Robert Gonzales, the man three witnesses have said is in his mid-40’s and named “Ray” returned to O’Lanagan’s demanding compensation for the fight, bar employees said.
When he didn’t get it, prosecutors have said, he lay in wait in the early morning hours of October 4, 2009 with the one suspect who has been arrested and charged, a 25 year-old laborer named Andrew Salamon.
Salamon, who police say made “videotaped admissions,” as opposed to a confession, remains held without bail awaiting indictment with a next scheduled court date Nov. 30.
The pair pounced on Gonzales in the alley behind the bar, according to prosecutors, likely as he went to the alley to dump the night’s trash around 4:45 a.m. Salamon allegedly punched the 69-year-old with his fists, and a second, un-named suspect viciously wielded a metal pipe. Gonzales, who had $2,000 in cash on him when he was found, died at a hospital 15 hours later.
Prosecutors say Salamon entered the bar, set off the alarm, and the pair were gone before police arrived.
Police would not confirm or deny speculative details to Center Square Journal about the second suspect Salamon fingered, whom the district attorney’s office confirmed was taken in for questioning on Saturday but later released.
But as the district attorney’s office outlined the motive for the crime, Salamon was helping this second suspect seek financial compensation and revenge for a fight at O’Lanagan’s three weeks earlier, during which he was knocked out and Gonzales laughed at him.
Bar regulars and employees present that night say that story is not quite right.
The “fight” happened outside the front door and was more of a two hitter, they say, with a regular at O’Lanagan’s hitting the second murder suspect in the face and him hitting the sidewalk. The man who was knocked out was described as in his mid-forties and three sources said his first name is “Ray.”
It is possible; even probable that Gonzales chuckled at the sight, according to former O’Lanagan’s regular Gary Wing. But it is unlikely the suspect heard him, Wing said, both because he and Gonzales were watching the altercation from a distance near the pool table, and because man was unconscious at the time.
Much more likely, Wing said, was that the notoriously thrifty Gonzales laughed in his face when the man asked for compensation.
“Bobby O’ never spent a dime on anything he didn’t need to,” Wing said, using Gonzales’ nick name. “That’s why he didn’t have a camera in the bar.”
“I can definitely see him saying, ‘No way, I had nothing to do with it.’”
According to Wing and a bar employee, the man who did the punching September 11 was named Sammy, and he was in the process of remodeling O’Lanagan’s. Friends say that may be why the second suspect thought Bobby O’ owed him money: because his assailant was on Gonzales’ payroll.
Several witnesses to the fight said the man suspected of beating Gonzales with the pipe was not an O’Lanagan’s regular and two said they had never seen him in the bar.
Police say the investigation continues.
This article was edited for clarification and attribution on November 27, 2011.