The man who gunned down a Meijer gas station clerk with a sawed-off shotgun for a carton of cigarettes on Thanksgiving Day in 2017 has been sentenced.
Victor Rivera was sentenced to 65 years for murder in the shooting death of 25-year-old Jacob Walerko.
Walerko was shot in the head while working at the Meijer gas station in the 6300 block of Lima Road on Nov. 23, 2017. On surveillance video from inside the gas station, police said Rivera pull out “what appeared to be a sawed-off shotgun” and shot Walerko in the head.
Investigators said Rivera then jumped over the counter and stole a carton of cigarettes. He then fled across the parking lot.
Police released those images to the public which resulted in numerous tips. Detectives learned through those tips that Rivera tried to work at the gas station and was making threats to workers because he didn’t get a job there.
One tip stated Rivera was “very interested in watching the news about the shooting.” Another stated he “watched the news” after the shooting and another said when he saw it, “Oh man, I am in trouble.”
Indeed, he was.
Rivera was arrested and charged with Murder and Robbery, along with a sentence enhancement for using a firearm. He pleaded guilty to a murder charge in March, dropping the other charges.
In court during sentencing, River did not speak of had his public defender speak on his behalf. He said Rivera had a tough childhood being abused emotionally and physically. He apparently has been diagnosed with several mental and personality disorders.
According to the statement, before the sentencing, Rivera said he couldn’t live like everyone else and wanted to destroy himself the night of the shooting.
“I never knew death was real until I saw it in front of me,” Rivera said in the statement. “I’m truly sorry.”
In the letter, River said he took responsibility and asked for forgiveness from Walerko’s family.
Walerko’s sister called Rivera a “cruel monster” in the courtroom.
His father fought back emotions as he addressed the court. He said Walerko loved animals and people. So much so, he would have given Rivera whatever he needed that night, whether it would be cigarettes or the last dollar in his pocket.
He said during a family meal a couple of hours before the shooting, Walerko said he wanted to work in law enforcement, fighting the drug problem. He was planning that while working two different jobs.
Walerko’s dad ended his statment by saying the family is serving a life sentence, as not a day goes by without thinking about the shooting. They wished for the maximum sentence.
Fort Wayne Police Detective Brian Martin took the stand and help the prosecution recreate the details of the shooting. New information revealed in the courtroom included that two children were in the store during the shooting. After shooting Walerko in front of them, he turned around and waved the gun in their faces before leaving the store.
Judge Fran Gull made her ruling after weighing several arguments. She considered Rivera’s “horrific” childhood but listed all of his previous offenses and the programs and the “astonishing array of services” that haven’t helped him turn his life around.