The owner of Restaurant Europa said he never heard 21 gunshots in the parking lot of Landerwood Plaza after a high school graduation party for about 100 people ended on June 1.
Alex Shneyder, owner of the Pepper Pike restaurant, said about 15 minutes after the party ended, at 12:15 a.m. June 2, he noticed two police vehicles in the parking lot, when he learned that a shooting had taken place just after midnight.
Three people were shot in the parking lot incident. A fourth sustained cuts from broken glass.
Pepper Pike police have not released the names of the victims. Pepper Pike Police Chief Joe Mariola told the Cleveland Jewish News on June 7 he’s never seen something like this in Pepper Pike.
There is a “person of interest, but no suspect at this time that we can talk about,” Mariola said. He added he’s confident the “person of interest” is male and was a part of the graduation party but left before it was over and waited in the parking lot. He does not believe the person of interest is a high school student.
A Volkswagen Jetta was shot 20 times, all on the right side of the car. An 18-year-old male from Garfield Heights was shot in the car.
“It would have been the right front fender, there was two shots to the windshield, several in the doors and then the rear right side quarter panel of the trunk,” Mariola said. “It was kind of like they were trying to get away from where he was shooting at the car and they were all kind of low shots in the lower parts of the panel.”
A 16-year-old from Cleveland and a 17-year-old from Beachwood, both male, received injuries from a bullet while sitting in the back seat of a Ford Fusion.
“That bullet went through the right rear door, struck one male in the back seat, went through his hand forearm and then struck the male sitting to the left of him, which would be on the left side of the car, and struck him also in I believe the leg,” Mariola said.
The three victims who were shot were taken to the hospital in an ambulance. A fourth victim, an 18-year-old from Beachwood, was struck in the hand by glass after a bullet broke the window of a nearby car he was standing by. Mariola said the fourth victim went to the hospital on his own accord.
Shneyder told the CJN on June 6 that four teenagers asked if they could rent a room the day before.
He described them as being well dressed and well mannered. They told him they wanted to host a graduation party for Beachwood High School, he said.
Shneyder said he believed most of the group was underage.
“That way I can’t serve you liquor and you can’t bring any liquor,” he said he told the group. “Because you (aren’t) 21, you can’t stay later than 12.”
Shneyder took a credit card deposit for the room, which included a payment for security.
He said he then called Pepper Pike police and asked if anyone would be available for a private security job. When he learned on Saturday that no one was interested in the job, he hired a private security guard.
Shneyder said the party went smoothly with no incidents. He advised the security guard not to allow anyone to bring any bottles.
He said a couple of guests presented identification and asked for drinks, but he told them he would not serve anyone in the party alcohol.
He said at about 11:50 p.m., he told the security guard to begin closing down the party.
“Very nice people,” he said. “Before 12, nobody was here.”
He said two adults – “maybe teachers” – sold tickets and paid the DJ, and they left at about 12:15. A couple of the teen party goers also stayed a bit late.
Shneyder said the room was clean.
“I told the adult people, they (were a) nice group,” he said. “If they want to repeat, I’d be happy because they (were) so nice. Everyone (was) polite. Good dress, beautiful kids. I can’t believe it.
“I locked the door. Nobody was inside, like 12. And at 12:15, I sit in my car in back, and I go around and I see two police cars. And I asked what’s happening. And they say (there) was a shooting outside. I didn’t see anybody, except policemen. I asked (for) details. He says it’s under investigation.”
Mariola said it’s his feeling the person of interest was shooting at one car, the Volkswagen Jetta.
“It’s our feeling that it was just the one car that was being shot at and the second one just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, for lack of a better description, and that was a stray shot that he missed the first car with,” he said. “Unfortunately there were two people in that car that got injured.”
At 7 a.m. June 2, Shneyder said he received a call from Pepper Pike Mayor Richard Bain and asked Shneyder to go to the police department where he related the same information he told the CJN.
John Bryan, owner of Knuth’s in the plaza, said police asked him for security tapes showing the front of the building and the tapes showed teens waiting for rides under the awning near his store.
“They were hanging out trying to stay out of the rain,” he said.
Bryan said he thought there were about 20 teens shown on the tape and that he heard it was an end-of-school year party.
“Thank G-d nobody was killed,” he said, adding that he did not believe there would be repeat incidents.
“I’m aware that Beachwood students were at this event,” said Robert P. Hardis, superintendent of Beachwood schools. “I know nothing about its planning. I didn’t know it was intended to be a graduation party. I just learned what occurred, and I’m happy that no one was seriously injured.”
Shneyder said he was left shaken by the incident and does not know what to do.
“I never have a problem with customers,” he said. “I did have kids (parties) very seldom, but I never have (problems). I have bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, sweet 16.”
Shneyder said he will not close and he has all of his money in Europa.
Born in Siberia, he lived in Moscow prior to immigrating to the United States in 1990. He was married at Park Synagogue, which is in Cleveland Heights and Pepper Pike.
Mariola said anyone with information should call Crime Stoppers at 216-252-7463.
Staff Reporter Alyssa Schmitt contributed to this report