The proprietor of an old-fashioned hardware store in Howard Street's Antique Row -- considered an institution by its Bolton Hill and Mount Vernon area customers -- was shot to death Saturday morning near the store's unopened cash register, police and the state medical examiner said yesterday.
Richard Schocket, 47, of the 2400 block of Smith Ave. in the Pikesville area was gunned down in Howard Hardware House, the family business in the 800 block of N. Howard St. once operated by his late father, Abram Schocket. Police were looking for a missing wallet.
An autopsy performed yesterday showed that the victim died from a gunshot wound in the neck. Mr. Schocket's body was discovered about 11 a.m. Saturday behind the counter by a customer, who thought at first he may have died of a heart attack.
Stuart Levine, a cousin of the victim, said Mr. Schocket's body was near the vintage hand-cranked cash register. The customer entered through the front door, which had been left open as it often was.
Mr. Levine speculated that his cousin was killed because the assailant could not open the old cash register, or that Mr. Schocket refused to accommodate his killer's demand to open it.
"We know his wallet is missing," Mr. Levine said, "but we don't know how much money was in it at the time."
Mr. Levine said there was little blood at the scene, leading the customer who found Mr. Schocket to initially tell police that the man seemed to be a heart attack victim.
No arrests had been made as of yesterday, homicide Detective Mark Wiedefeld said.
Antique Row merchants are seeking added police patrols of the shops along the 700 and 800 blocks of N. Howard St., a spokesman for shopkeepers said.
The hardware store, with its creaky wooden floor, aged display cases and myriad shelves containing nuts, bolts, screws of every size and assorted other wares, has been a well-known source of materials for repairs, maintenance and restoration of homes in the Bolton Hill and Mount Vernon preservation districts.
Mr. Levine, an attorney, said Mr. Schocket spent most of his life at the store.
"He grew up in that store when he was a child and a young man and became the owner after his father, Abe, died about 10 years ago," Mr. Levine said.
He said the merchants along Antique Row were devastated by Mr. Schocket's violent death.
"He was a good businessman and helped a lot of people along the way who needed assistance," Mr. Levine said.
Louis Herstein, owner of a lamp shop next to the hardware store, said the Schocket family business had been at the Howard Street location since the turn of the century.
He said the hardware store served antique shops along Howard Street as well as residents of the area.
Yesterday, the lights remained on inside the locked hardware store. The display window with its dusty thumb tacks, pest strips and window shade hooks was left unattended.
The cash register had not been removed. Saws and paint brushes remained hanging from the ceiling, along with hardware signs so old they looked like they could be collector's items.
The future of the business had not been determined, Mr. Levine said.
Mr. Schocket is survived by his wife, Phyllis; a son, Michael; and ++ a daughter, Alice, all of the Baltimore area.
Mr. Schocket's funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the Sol Levinson & Sons Funeral Home in the 6000 block of Reisterstown Road.
Burial will be at Anshe Emunah Aitz Chaim Cemetery at Washington Boulevard and Sulphur Spring Road.