Famous restaurateur dies in custody

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The owner of a popular local pizza place died in law enforcement custody near the Manitoba Legislature on Thursday – but the Winnipeg Police Department has not notified the public of the death.

Details of the death in custody are scarce, but two sources close to the family told the Free press that George Simeonidis Jr., the owner of Santa Lucia Pizza on Corydon Avenue, died shortly after being detained by the WPS.

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George Simeonidis Jr., seen in Santa Lucia on Corydon Avenue, died in police custody on Thursday. No details were provided.

It is still unclear what brought Simeonidis Jr. – a husband and father of two, as well as a successful local business owner – in contact with the police.

When contacted by the Free press WPS Public Information Officer Jay Murray said on Sunday the department would likely release details of the case on Monday – four days after the fact.

The WPS published five incidents on Friday – one assault with a weapon; a shooting; a stab; a drug offense; and a weapons charge – but made no mention of Simeonidis Jr.’s death.

A source close to the family said the Manitoba Independent Investigation Unit – the provincial police’s watchdog – has launched an investigation into the case, which is standard protocol whenever actions or l inaction of a police officer contributes to a suspicious death.

The IIU did not respond to a request for comment – sent through the provincial government – on Sunday.

Simeonidis Jr. is part of a close-knit family that has long enjoyed success in the pizza business. The family first bought a small pizzeria in a Thompson mall in 1971. The restaurant quickly became a hit in the community.

In 1974, the Simeonidis family moved to Winnipeg, where the operation grew and became one of the city’s most popular pizzerias. The family currently has several physical locations in Winnipeg.

Simeonidis Jr. passed away on November 4, just 11 days away from his 45th birthday. He is survived by a wife, two children – aged 13 and 11 – and a large and extended family.

“I would like an investigation to find out exactly what happened to George and the events leading up to his death,” a family source said.

“How did that happen? We want to know what happened and what led to it. We want to know that he was not injured and was not mistreated.”

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Twitter: rk_thorpe

Ryan thorpe

Ryan thorpe
Journalist

Ryan Thorpe enjoys the rhythm of daily news, the feel of a large newspaper in his hands and the stress of endless deadlines hanging over his head.

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