Freddie Dizon showed up for work in the Anchor Bar’s kitchen more than an hour late on Friday, muttering something about being followed.
Two hours later, Dizon, 32, lay wounded from bullets fired into his chest at close range. The father of three was pronounced dead at Erie County Medical Center.
“I just know that Freddie was upset throughout the whole day, saying that someone was following him,” said Ray Hogue, a line chef who was just feet away from Dizon when the gunfire erupted and was grazed in the back by a ricocheting bullet or a fragment.
Hogue said his workmate told him Friday and during the week that someone wanted to hurt him. The conflict might have had something to do with one of Dizon’s sons, Hogue said.
Buffalo police are aware of this, he added. But by Sunday afternoon, homicide detectives had announced no arrest, and police spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge did not return telephone messages about the investigation. So Dizon’s killer could still be at large.
Meanwhile, the restaurant at 1047 Main St. that originated the Buffalo chicken wing reopened at noon Sunday – 41 hours after the shooting – to a steady flow of customers.
The Anchor Bar had said in a statement that it “will not allow this act of senseless violence to keep us from serving the good people of this city.”
Dizon’s brother, a former Anchor Bar employee now living in Utah, began seeking donations on the GoFundMe website for Dizon’s children.
“My brother was murdered in cold blood at his place of employment where he made a living to provide for his three kids,” Danny Gomez wrote in his appeal. “He was such a fun-loving, talented, and good person who didn’t deserve this cowardly senseless tragedy.”
Hogue said he began his shift around 3 p.m. Friday, his customary starting time. Dizon was to have started soon after. On a typical Friday night, the pair would work side by side for hours.
This past Friday, Dizon showed up after 5, looking uneasy and preoccupied, Hogue said. At around 7, Dizon ventured into a nearby hallway, where some supplies are kept.
Hogue said he never saw the masked gunman. He later learned that the assailant had come in through a back door, walked purposefully behind Hogue and the other busy kitchen workers and confronted Dizon as he made his way from the hallway back to his workstation.
Then came the shots, three at first.
“Pop, pop, pop,” Hogue said in describing them. The other employees went into a crouch, and so did Hogue. But unlike the others, Hogue first felt something hot hit the center of his back. Hot metal had bounced, perhaps off a refrigerator, and sizzled into him. He was treated at ECMC and discharged.
The wounded Dizon retreated back in the direction from which he had come. He staggered out into a dining area and eventually out the front door before he collapsed, Hogue said. Patrons were scrambling, too, according to police.
A woman who placed one of the first calls to 911 said that there had been five shots in all, according to broadcasts over the police radio. The gunman, who had kept his face hidden the whole time, ran from Main Street west toward Linwood Avenue. The detectives who interviewed Hogue theorize that the killer had once worked at the Anchor Bar, Hogue said.
As he convalesced at home Sunday, Hogue, 36, said it will be emotionally difficult to return to work.
The Anchor Bar has endured other spates of unwelcome publicity. In 2013, two handguns and $1,000 in cash were stolen in a smash-and-grab theft from a vehicle parked there. In 2008, some of its employees were among those scheming with workers at other local businesses to steal credit card information from their customers, according to federal prosecutors. The ringleader was sentenced to 46 months in prison.
But a fatal shooting on a busy Friday night inside the internationally known tourist destination inspired a City Hall effort to assure the public that Anchor Bar customers are not in danger.
Police Capt. Joseph A. Gramaglia of the Homicide Squad said patrons were not at risk because the shooting occurred in the kitchen. Mayor Byron W. Brown later made similar comments, stating that police told him the shooting “was not random at all.”