2 arrested in death of pizza man

August 14, 1994|By Bruce Reid | Bruce Reid,Sun Staff Writer

City police arrested a teen-ager and a young man yesterday in the death of Igor Berenshteyn, the 23-year-old Russian immigrant who was shot attempting to keep from being robbed during a try-out as a pizza deliveryman.

Officer Robert Weinhold said the suspects were arrested at 3:50 p.m. in a Northwest Baltimore house about three blocks from where Mr. Berenshteyn was killed Wednesday evening.

Police said they went to the house in the 3000 block of Virginia Ave. after being tipped that the suspects, who were charged with homicide in warrants issued Thursday, were there.

The arrests occurred in the home of the parents of one of the suspects, Samuel Small, 17, who has been charged as an adult. The other suspect arrested was Joseph Benjamin, 23, of the 2700 block of Virginia Ave., Officer Weinhold said.

Mr. Benjamin, in an interview that aired on WJZ-TV's 6:30 p.m. newscast, said he shot Mr. Berenshteyn.

"It looked like he had a gun in his car, and everybody kept saying, 'Shoot him, shoot him, shoot him.' And I got scared and I just shot him," Mr. Benjamin told the television station's interviewer.

A WJZ-TV producer, Stefanie Cargill, said the 17-year-old's mother called the station earlier yesterday, asking to broadcast an appeal that the suspects surrender.

Before that appeal aired, and while the TV crew was at the house, however, the suspects arrived at the Small home, said Ms. Cargill. Police arrived a few minutes later.

The victim's mother, Faina Vaynerman, watched the WJZ newscast last night.

"It was difficult to watch," she said. "I cannot cry more. . . . I came to this country to protect the future of our son. . . . They killed not only his future, they killed a good person, a good citizen."

Homicide detectives also were looking for a third male, Officer Weinhold said.

Mr. Berenshteyn, 23, had immigrated to the United States 18 months ago with his parents -- and was reluctant to come to this country, his mother said. The family arrived from Ulyanovsk, Russia, in January 1993.

Although he had a degree in photography from a four-year university in Russia, relatives said he had found only low-paying jobs in America. The victim had pleaded with his employer, Ansar Iqbal of the take-out shop Pizza Deal on Park Heights Avenue, to let him deliver pizzas for tips on the night of his death.

Officer Weinhold said the suspects were being questioned yesterday afternoon by homicide detectives, then were to be taken to the Northeastern District station. Bail was to be set by a court commissioner.

The warrants charged the suspects with first-degree murder, using a handgun in the commission of a crime and attempted robbery with a deadly weapon.

Officer Weinhold said he was not aware of a weapon being recovered yesterday -- either at the Virginia Avenue home where the arrests were made or elsewhere.

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