Victim's relative named 'person of interest' in Battle Creek area shooting

BATTLE CREEK, MICH. - With a single shot, a gunman killed a Battle Creek businessman who was described as a kind and gentle man.

Battle Creek police are continuing their search not only for the gunman but for a motive in the Friday morning killing of Frankie Zanetti, 63.

Friday night police said they are looking for a relative, Brian Zanetti, 47, of Battle Creek as a person of interest. Police said he is 5-foot-5 and 170 pounds and may be driving a dark gray Hyundai Accent with a license number of DMZ6566. Anyone with information is asked to call Silent Observer at 269-964-3888 or text CRIMES (274637) SOTIP.

The gunman walked into Frankie Zanetti's Battle Creek Tile and Mosaic Co. at 1338 W. Michigan Ave. in the Urbandale business district, asked for Zanetti and shot him once in the head, police said Friday.

The shooting was reported at 10:30 a.m. and by mid-afternoon police said they don't know who shot Zanetti or why.

"The guy asked for Frank," said Detective Sgt. Troy Gilleylen, supervisor of the Detective Bureau. "They were after Frank for whatever reason. It appears he had some kind of dealing or issue with Frank directly."

Police said the business was open and six to 10 customers and employees, including some of Zanetti's family, were in the store at the time. No one else was hurt.

Major Austin Simons said Zanetti was with another customer when the gunman walked in, asked for Zanetti, walked to the rear of the showroom and shot him once with a handgun at close range.

The gunman then left the store and disappeared. Zanetti died at the scene.

"No one else was threatened or believed they were in harm's way," Gilleylen said.

Police are interviewing everyone in the store and will be searching cell phones and computers looking for any clues leading to a suspect or a motive, Gilleylen said. They also are looking for surveillance video from nearby businesses and are hoping to prepare a composite of the gunman based on witness descriptions.

Police described the gunman as a white man in his 30s. He was between 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 and wearing jeans, a blue pastel hoodie and teal baseball cap with an emblem. Gilleylen said it appears he pulled up a blue bandanna over his face after he entered the store and before he shot Zanetti.

A police dog was unable to find a scent and investigators said they are unsure if the gunman had a vehicle nearby.

Zanetti and his brother, John, owned the business which was founded in 1958 by their father, Santo Zanetti, according to information on the company website.

"He was the nicest guy in the world," said Joe Newman, a Battle Creek contractor who dealt with the company nearly every day. "We have been dealing with him for years and I grew up with him and went to St. Phillip Catholic Schools with him.

"I don't know anyone who didn't like Frank Zanetti."

Newman said Zanetti, a member of St. Jerome Catholic Church at 229 Collier Ave., "did a lot of charitable things. If anyone asked him for anything, he did it. He was very generous to St. Jerome and to St. Phil."

He found it hard, Newman said, to believe that anyone who was a customer was unhappy because the Zanetti family always corrected any problems customers might have with the company.

"It's shocking. He wasn't a guy who would lose his temper," Newman said.

Another Battle Creek businessman, Tim Brutsche, was in school with John Zanetti, Frank's younger brother.

He said he has known both brothers most of his life and dealt with them as businessmen and as friends.

"I can't imagine Frank having an enemy in the world," Brutsche said. "He was a kind, gentle man."

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© 2017 Battle Creek Enquirer


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