LAWRENCE — A market owner who was sleeping in his store because of a past robbery attempt, surprised an alleged intruder and beat him with a baseball bat early yesterday morning.
The suspect, Douglas Ragonese, 38, 49 Grafton St., Methuen, was in critical condition in the intensive care unit at Lawrence General Hospital last night, hospital officials said.
Avelino Fernandez, owner of Fernandez Market, 102 Essex St., said he heard someone kick in the lower panel of the glass door of the store shortly after 5 a.m.
Fernandez had stayed in the store overnight with his sons Miguel, 16, and Marcos, 13, because he had another robbery in March. Back then, he had a fist fight with the would-be robber and was able to hold him down until police arrived, recovering the $71 he took from the store.
Yesterday, when he heard sounds of broken glass, he jumped out of bed. He said it took him several seconds to get from a back room to the front of the store, where he said he saw Ragonese behind the counter.
According to the police report, Fernandez returned to the back of the store to get a bat in case the intruder was armed.
"At that moment, I wasn't afraid," Fernandez, 38, said. "In situations like that, you have the strength."
Fernandez moved to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic 11 years ago and said it was disappointing to have to put up with robberies.
"You just have to fix things and continue forward because you can't give up," Fernandez said.
Fernandez said Ragonese came around the counter and grabbed a broom as he walked toward him. Fernandez said he swung the bat and struck Ragonese, knocking him to the ground, according to the police report.
In the report, "Mr. Fernandez told Mr. Ragonese, 'Take it easy, don't move, don't move' over and over again. (But) Ragonese continued to struggle attempting to get up."
Fernandez told police he hit Ragonese "between three to five times" during the scuffle. Marcos Fernandez called police while his father held Ragonese down until officers arrived.
According to the police report, Ragonese suffered head wounds and appeared to have broken his left ankle.
Emergency medical technicians from Patriot Ambulance treated Ragonese at the scene and took him to Lawrence General Hospital.
Police went to check on Ragonese at the hospital and staff members in the emergency room told them he "had a possible skull fracture and would be heading into surgery."
Officers found an open Craftsman utility knife laying on the floor inside the store about two feet from Ragonese and next to it was Ragonese's blue "Ragz Express LLC" baseball cap.
Police also found $36 in cash in Ragonese's pockets, a personal check made out to Fernandez and several sales receipts from the store.
Ragonese faces charges of breaking and entering with intent to commit a felony, malicious damage over $250 and assault with a dangerous weapon.
The case is under investigation headed by Detective Daniel J. Fitzpatrick.