DALLAS — For years, Victoria Polanco served up traditional Latin American food with a wide smile from her tiny restaurant on Carroll Avenue.
She was a neighborhood fixture in her East Dallas community. Her shooting death in a robbery that occurred late Friday at her restaurant, Pupuseria Victoria, has stunned those that knew and loved her. There are no suspects in her killing.
Polanco, 51, was pronounced dead Monday afternoon at Baylor Hospital. Her organs are being donated.
“This lady meant a lot to our people,” said Pedro, a friend and customer. “She fed us with her hands. I don’t want her to be forgotten. I don’t want this to go unsolved.
Authorities say a robber entered Polanco’s restaurant just before midnight Friday. He robbed a customer and then he robbed the restaurant. He also took Palanco’s keys and cellphone. When she tried to grab for her phone, the robber shot her in the head.
Polanco is the 122nd murder recorded in the city of Dallas to date. It comes at the time when the city’s murder rate is 20 percent plus higher than last year, and the city’s clearance rates have dropped to abysmal lows.
Through the end of August, the city’s clearance rate for murders was 41.5. Historically, the city’s murder clearance rate was around 60 percent or even higher. Police sources blame the lower clearance rates, in part, on homicide detectives being routinely pulled away from their cases to go work in patrol.
This week, there are three homicide detectives and a homicide sergeant assigned to patrol. Next week, five homicide detectives are assigned to the week-long rotation.
For example, the detective assigned to work last Wednesday’s stabbing murder of Maria Romero-Villegas on Kellogg Avenue is currently assigned to do one-week rotation in patrol rather than working the case. Romero-Villegas’ body was found by a boy walking to school.
Police do not have any suspects in her murder, either.
Noe Montiel works at the barber shop right next to Polanco’s restaurant. She was a frequent visitor next door, often bringing them food and sometimes babysitting the owner’s daughter.
“She was like the mother of the barber shop,” he said. “The barber shop ain't the same without her no more.”
Polanco was known in the neighborhood as "China.” Her restaurant, which was usually open six days a week, was closed Monday.
“How can you do it to a person like her?” Montiel told News 8. “She fed everybody.”
Those that knew her said she fed homeless people and others in the neighborhood.
In a review last year on Yelp, a customer wrote that he had driven by a million times but this time he decided to stop at the “tiny establishment.”
“I was greeted by Victoria, the owner and namesake of the restaurant,” he wrote. “She was dressed in bright, fancy, traditional garb.”
She explained that she was from Puerto Rico but her family was from the Dominican Republic.
There’s no menu in her restaurant, he wrote, “just bean and cheese pupusas with a side of steak.” Polanco made every other from scratch. She’d buy her ingredients fresh every day.
“Victoria bagged up my order with that maternal smile that had not once left her face since the moment I walked in,” he wrote.
It was the best pupusas he’d had anywhere, he wrote.
The customer was only expressing what everybody in the neighborhood already knew about Polanco. They just can’t understand why anybody would want to hurt her, much less kill her.
“Everybody's worried about their safety now,” Montiel said. “We know she don't have no money. What you going to get out of her. She was an honest living lady.”
Pedro, her friend and customer, has a message for her killer.
“You took away somebody very dear to our community,” he said. “I hope you pay for it, sir.”
Copyright 2016 WFAA