A vicious repeat offender with a warrant out for his arrest, who had been released from jail despite a parole board’s claims that his crimes “showed a propensity for extreme violence,” has been arrested for the slaying of a Midwood liquor store clerk who many called an inspiration to the neighborhood.
On Aug. 26 — a week to the day he allegedly gunned down gangster-rapper turned Orthodox Jew Yosef Robinson — 33-year-old Eion Klass was jailed without bail for the murder. A bail of $50,000 was also ordered for the attempted robbery which sparked the killing.
Police caught up with Klass earlier in the week after receiving several tips about the unhinged parolee, who already had an arrest warrant hanging over his head for robbing his ex-girlfriend’s new beau in June — just eight months after getting out of prison.
Prosecutors allege Klass entered MB Vineyards, a liquor store on Nostrand Avenue between Avenues J and K, with his face covered and a gun in his hand at 9:30 pm on Aug. 19.
Robinson, his girlfriend, Lahavah Wallace, and his cousin were in the store when Klass entered, demanding money and Wallace’s jewelry, according to the Daily News. As Klass attempted to remove a bracelet from Wallace, Robinson intervened, reaching for the gun and struggling with the assailant while telling his girlfriend to run. Klass then shot Robinson in the chest and arm, police claim. Robinson died of his injuries at Kings County Hospital. Wallace and the cousin were uninjured.
Detectives closed in on Klass, who lives down the block from MB Vineyards, after receiving tips from several residents.
Klass was initially taken into custody on the arrest warrant resulting from the earlier robbery complaint. The charges continued to mount when, during questioning at the 70th Precinct station house on Lawrence Street, Klass reportedly tried to escape. He allegedly broke free from detectives and ran toward the nearest exit, leaving a cop with a small injury, prosecutors said.
He ultimately confessed to entering the liquor store and to announcing a robbery, according to his criminal complaint.
Yet Klass didn’t admit to killing Robinson, a one-time West Coast drug dealer who gave up his violent ways to embrace Judaism.
Those who knew Robinson say the MB Vineyards clerk bridged the gap between the neighborhood’s Orthodox and African American communities.
“He was one of our generation’s bright lights,” said Robinson’s longtime friend Shais Rison. “Yosef was proud to be a Jew and he was proud to be a Jamaican and he never let either aspect of his identity overshadow the other. His life was filled with compassion and selflessness. He did us proud as both a black man as well as a Jew of color.”
Klass’s history of violence is well documented.
His first run-in with the police was in 1996 when he was charged with disorderly conduct, according to prosecutors.
A year later, he was arrested for shooting a man in the head on E. 21st Street between Dorchester Road and Ditmas Avenue. He pled guilty to attempted murder and robbery and was sentenced to nine to 18 years in prison. He was released on parole after 11 years, after the state parole board had twice turned down his request for early release.
Defense attorney Alan Stutman pled not guilty at the murder arraignment, and claimed Klass had been questioned by detectives for nearly 72 hours before he was charged with the killing.
“[The police] were threatening him … They were going at him pretty hard,” Stutman told this paper. “They held him for three days, which was unusual. When I saw him his clothes were bloody and torn. You can draw your own conclusions.”