BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — A 90-year-old store clerk who told a customer he couldn’t sell him beer at 5:45 a.m. was punched twice and shoved to the floor by a man who, it turns out, was recently released from prison, police said.
Avery Heard, 42, of Lynn was charged with assault and battery on a person 60 or older, following the incident at Steve’s Quality Market in downtown Salem early yesterday morning.
Steve Ingemi, meanwhile, was left with a scratch on his face, where he was punched twice after taking the beer from Heard and telling him he couldn’t legally sell it to him before 8 a.m., police said.
As Ingemi went to put the beer back on a shelf in the cooler, Heard punched him twice, then turned to walk away, police said. Ingemi said he managed to get in a blow to the back of Heard’s neck. But Heard then turned around and knocked the elderly man to the floor, police said.
An ambulance crew checked Ingemi out at the store, but he declined to be taken to a hospital.
“He’s all right,” said Ingemi’s son, Peter, who said his dad opens the store every morning. “He’s got a scar on his face.”
Arriving officers encountered two other customers coming out of the store. They gave police a description of the suspect and what he was wearing, including a gray jacket with the word “ice” on it.
About an hour later, officers saw Heard, wearing the same gray jacket, near the store and arrested him.
Salem police Lt. Conrad Prosniewski asked a judge to set bail for Heard at $25,000, citing his 13-page criminal record.
Heard was released from prison just last fall, according to court records, after serving five years of a five- to six-year prison term for armed robbery and assault in a Lynn case. His probation officer in that case yesterday asked a Superior Court judge to hold Heard without bail until a hearing next month that could send him back to prison for violating his probation.
Prosniewski said it’s likely Heard will face more time behind bars for the assault on Ingemi, given his long record.
Heard’s lawyer, Sean Wynne, argued that the situation was a misunderstanding and that Heard told him he was trying to buy orange juice, not beer.
Wynne said Heard was returning to the store to try to sort things out when he was arrested.
The lawyer also said Heard, who is married and the father of a child, is on Social Security Disability Income for a “learning disability.”
Heard’s mental competency was raised as an issue during the Lynn robbery case, according to court records, but he was ultimately found competent to stand trial.
Salem District Court Judge Michael Lauranzano ordered Heard held on $25,000 cash bail yesterday during Heard’s arraignment and ordered that if he makes bail, he must stay away from Steve’s Quality Market, Ingemi and the witnesses.
Heard has a couple of court appearances next month. On May 6, a Superior Court judge will decide whether he has violated his probation in the Lynn case, and on May 10, he’s due back in District Court for a pretrial hearing in the assault case.
Peter Ingemi said he doesn’t expect that the incident will deter his father from continuing to open the store each morning.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at email@example.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.