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Mackey's scrap metal makes holiday treasure

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By Chris Sardelli

At first glance, nothing seems to be out of place in Gonzie Mackey’s assembly workshop.
Various hammers, pliers and screwdrivers line the walls, while assorted bicycle parts are strewn about the room.
With a wrench in hand, Mackey tightens the bolts connecting a bicycle wheel to a metal frame and everything seems in order.
But for Mackey, a Lancaster City Councilman and owner of Gonzie & Son Assembly Shop, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
It was about 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 8, when Mackey arrived at his shop on Great Falls Highway and noticed something awry. Almost three dozen old bicycles he had fixed up and cleaned to give as Christmas gifts to families in need were missing.
“I realized all my bikes, the parts and some other things, like lawnmowers, were taken from my business where I stored them. This basically leaves me with nothing,” Mackey said. “This year, I had a list of people and had about 30 bikes ready to go.”
He said the bikes, mopeds, push mowers and assorted parts were stolen from the wooded area behind his shop sometime between Nov. 4 and 6.
In an incident report he filed that day with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, he estimated the value of the stolen items at $2,150.
Mackey said the investigator assigned to the case began calling up local recycling centers, on the chance that the bikes were sold as scrap.
“(A recycling center employee) told him what happened and the guy said someone brought up a slew of them,” Mackey said.
In total, several hundred pounds of items were brought to a scrap yard in exchange for $94.50, the report said.
Through interviews with several people, the investigator eventually narrowed down a suspect, Danny Nelson, 45, 430 Clinton Ave., who is now wanted on the charge of petit larceny, said Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Matt Shaw.
The investigator soon learned Nelson had asked a man he knew to pick up the items, and that man sent one of his employees to transfer the items to the recycling center.
Shaw said neither of those men knew the items were stolen and have not been charged in the case.
During the investigation, Mackey had a chance to speak to Nelson directly about the crime.
“He (Nelson) told me he was very sorry for taking the bikes and scraps for the bikes. He admitted he did do it. He said ‘I’m so sorry I did something like that to you. If I would have known it was you, I wouldn’t have done it,’” he said. “I wanted to give him the benefit of doubt because people have had hard times.”
“I said God gives us all choices to make in life and the choice you made is the choice you have to deal with consequences on. He said ‘you’re right,’” he said.
Hoping for a positive resolution, Mackey initially agreed to let the man work off the debt, but after that fell through, he decided to press charges against Nelson.
On Friday, Shaw said Nelson had yet to be arrested on the charge.
“We’re still showing the warrant as active, so he hasn’t been found,” Shaw said.
Four little angels
Mackey said the charges mean nothing if he can’t find a way to help the families on his list.
“To this guy it was scrap for him to make a few dollars, but it was treasure to me and it was a miracle for some families at Christmas,” Mackey said.
In order to make sure those miracles still come true, Mackey has helped set up several drop-off locations throughout the city, including his assembly shop and both the Lancaster fire and police departments, where residents can donate used or new bikes.
“I wouldn’t normally ask anyone for this, but if you’ve got any old bikes, or even if it’s a part that can be used on a bike, you can drop it off. If some local churches or local businesses want to sponsor a bike, that could work too,” he said.
Despite the loss of his bikes, Mackey said it didn’t take long for him to be reminded about the true meaning of Christmas from his four grandchildren, ages 8, 10, 11 and 12.
“I told them what we had to give this year was gone. All four of them came back to me and said ‘paw-paw, since all the bikes got stolen, that means the kids won’t get anything for Christmas,’” he said.
“Then they said the kids can have their bikes,” Mackey said. “I felt like I was surrounded by four little angels and I felt like even though all this stuff was going on, it was going to be OK.”

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli   at (803) 416-8416