A 32-year-old restaurateur from New Jersey was fatally wounded when he was shot in the back of the head in Georgetown Sunday night during a robbery at the home of a relative. Police said that the robber fled from the scene on Prospect Street NW with $34, two watches and a wallet.
John M. Gessler of Lambertville, N.J., who died yesterday afternoon at Georgetown University Hospital, was returning with friends to his stepbrother's apartment in the 3200 block of Prospect Street just before midnight when a man armed with a handgun followed them into a ground-floor hallway.
Without warning, the gunman fired one shot, striking Gessler in the back of the head, according to police. After the shooting, the man demanded jewelry from the others in the group and then ran out.
Community leaders and neighbors viewed the shooting as indicative of an upsurge in robbery and violent crime in the prosperous and fashionable Georgetown area.
Police said that Gessler, with his stepbrother and another man who lives at the Prospect Street address, had gone to the International Horse Show at the Capital Centre with three other people and then had had dinner at a Georgetown restaurant before heading back to the apartment.
At the corner of Potomac and Prospect Streets they noticed someone following them, police said. After they entered the brick row house and were about to open the door to the stepbrother's ground-floor apartment, the robber approached them, pistol in hand.
The victim was identified as the owner of the Broadmoor restaurant in Lambertville and, according to one of the others in the group, the owner of two other buildings in that town.
Police said they have not identified a suspect.
The shooting followed by less than six months the May 12 robbery and fatal shooting of Hector Ravollo about one block away on N Street NW. A homicide detective said yesterday that there appear to be similarities between the two incidents and that police will investigate the earlier shooting with "renewed interest."
Donald Shannon, president of the Citizens Association of Georgetown, said that word of Sunday night's shooting has spread and has prompted many persons to telephone the association expressing concern.
"The people who live here are getting pretty panicky about the number of shootings and robberies in Georgetown ," said Shannon. He said the association will hold a special meeting Nov. 8 to discuss crime in Georgetown.