NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — Community leaders continue to share their stories of the beloved Niagara Falls business owner 69-year-old Jesse Richardson.
The Niagara Falls Police Department is investigating the death as a homicide. Police say Richardson was found dead on his bedroom floor on Calumet Avenue in Niagara Falls on Christmas Eve morning. Police called the death suspicious.
City Councilman and organizer of the Niagara Falls Peacemakers, Ezra Scott Jr., said he was fortunate enough to be one of the many who received nuggets of wisdom from Richardson. He said he wore out his shoes on the campaign trail because Richardson taught him to be persistent.
About a dozen candles lined the entrance of Richardson's deli on Thursday night. Richardson was the owner of Richardson's, a deli and car wash at the corner of Highland and Centre Avenues.
"You look at his business, you look at the home that he lived in right off the city, which explains why he was in the hearts of the people as well," Scott said.
Richardson's younger brother, Raymond J. Richardson, said the family is in shock.
"Man I'm gunna miss him man," he said. "I just didn't think this would happen, terrible."
Scott said he doesn't know of any official criminal complaints involving Richardson, but said he has heard about people bothering him.
"I do hear bits and pieces throughout the community as far as complaints that he may have had, as far as individuals who may have, you know harassed him at points in time," Scott said.
His brother described him as a hardworking man who took good care of his family, including two children and grandchildren. He said he was clever, a mastermind.
"He never really wanted to work for anyone, he always wanted to do things for himself," Richardson said.
That's why he opened up the restaurant. Longtime Niagara Falls resident, Al Williams, has known Richardson his whole life.
"He's had this restaurant for several years, and the community supports him in this area, and everyone around the city," Williams said. "He's well loved and will be missed."
Williams said he was a father figure to many in the city, including himself.
In a statement, Chief of Detectives Kelly J. Rizzo wrote, "Mr. Richardson is very well known and respected in the community. He always enjoyed serving the youth from the neighborhood which gave him time to mentor them, encouraging them to lead lives free of violence and his absence will leave a void in the community."
Mayor Paul Dyster added, "Jessie was a pillar of the business and culinary communities, and a stalwart of Highland Avenue, but his loss will be mourned by people of all walks of life in all parts of the city."
Police have not released Richardson's cause of death. The case is being investigated as a homicide and an autopsy will be performed.
Scott's calling on anyone with information to come forward.
"This isn't a matter of snitching," he said. "Mr. RIchardson he was not in the streets, he was a clean honest man, he had a business. So lets please figure this out so justice can be served."