Tanning salon gun matches one in ‘honeybee’ spree, source says
BY DAN ROZEK AND KIM JANSSEN Staff Reporters December 13, 2010 7:53PM
Gary Amaya, of Rankin, was shot and killed Dec. 11 when he attempted to rob an L.A. Tan salon in Orland Park.
Updated: December 14, 2010 9:16AM
The pistol used in a weekend robbery at an Orland Park tanning parlor is the same weapon that killed a man and wounded two others during a two-state shooting spree in October, a law enforcement source said Monday.
Ballistic tests show the handgun Gary Amaya carried during the Saturday holdup at L.A. Tan also was used in an Oct. 5 shooting in rural Will County and another that occurred later the same day near Lowell, Ind., the source disclosed.
The 48-year-old Amaya was killed with that pistol Saturday when one of his robbery victims — customer Jason McDaniel — grabbed the gun and shot Amaya twice as they struggled over the weapon.
“When they had me at the station they said this may be a lot bigger than what you think,” McDaniel recalled.
On Monday, investigators from Will County and from Lake County, Ind., searched Amaya’s home in the isolated, downstate hamlet of Rankin.
Law enforcement sources revealed over the weekend that Amaya was being viewed as a possible suspect in the unsolved “honeybee” shootings that occurred in October along the Illinois-Indiana border.
Construction worker Rolando Alonso, 45, was killed Oct. 5 in rural Will County near Beecher. Another man working with Alonso, 19-year-old Joshua Garza, was critically wounded when he was shot in his right eye.
The gunman crossed into Indiana and less than an hour later shot 64-year-old farmer Keith Dahl after first chatting with him about raising honeybees.
A police officer in south suburban Lynwood initially was arrested, but a murder charge filed against him was quickly dropped when forensic evidence from his personal computer showed the officer was home when the shootings occurred.
Will County sheriff’s police would say little Monday about the investigation, except to confirm investigators have met with Orland Park officers to discuss the weekend shooting that killed Amaya.
“We sent detectives to Orland Park in relation to their armed robbery,” said Ken Kaupas, spokesman for the Will County sheriff’s department.
One of those injured in the October shootings hopes that Amaya was his attacker — because then he won’t have to worry that the gunman still is roaming free.
“Sure it would help, not just for me but for everybody,” said Dahl, the Indiana farmer. “I think everybody worried about what could happen if this guy showed up again.”
Lake County sheriff’s police have contacted him since Amaya’s weekend death to say they want to meet personally with him to discuss his shooting, but as of Monday night no meeting had occurred.
Dahl said he has tried to remain upbeat as he recovers from the wounds he suffered during the shooting, which occurred after the gunman first chatted with him about raising bees.
“I’m thrilled to death I’m alive,” he said. “I don’t want to be bitter or angry about it.”
In Rankin, shocked residents of the close-knit small town said Amaya stood out as a loner.
For a town that has “less than 600 residents, including cats and dogs,” according to Rankin Mayor Aaron Warren, Amaya’s lack of contact with neighbors was remarkable.
“We’ve never had anything like this here,” Warren said.
Amaya moved to the town about a decade ago to look after his elderly mother, and stayed after she died of cancer a couple of years ago, said Lynn Magers, who runs the town’s post office.
“He seemed so normal — if you saw him you wouldn’t think there was anything unusual about him,” she said, adding that Amaya worked as a truck driver.
But neighbors on Amaya’s street, opposite a snow-covered corn field, said they almost never saw him.
“He mowed the lawn on Sundays and that was it,” Debbie Osborn said. “I don’t think I even saw his lights on at night.”
Staff at the town’s two bars also knew nothing of him until Monday morning.
Amy Hofbauer, who runs Boone’s Firehouse on the town’s quaint Main Street, prides herself on knowing everyone in town, but when a UPS deliveryman came into her bar last week asking for directions to Amaya’s house, “I’d never even heard of him,” she said.
The town’s only police officer, Tim Condon, said he’d never been called to Amaya’s home, while sources said he had no police record whatsoever. Police have not been able to find any relatives of Amaya, a source said.
Contributing: Joseph Biesk, SouthtownStar