HIGHLAND PARK — The overnight shift at the Citgo station on Hamilton Avenue in the city is usually a quiet one, and safe for the most part according to owner Mohammed Bazzi.
But things took a tragic turn on the morning of Wednesday, Jan. 18, as a robbery ended in a fatal shooting of the store's clerk.
|The Citgo station in Highland Park where a clerk was fatally shot on Wednesday morning. The man was lured into leaving the protective glass in front of the counter by a robber who purposely dropped a bottle of juice to get him to clean it up. PHOTO: Nick Meyer/TAAN|
The incident happened when a man entered the station at around 3:25 a.m. and grabbed a bottle of juice from the store's cooler before dropping it near the front door of the cooler and walking out.
According to Bazzi, the store's videotaped showed that another person was waiting outside for a chance to enter the store and catch the clerk off guard.
The clerk began to clean up the mess with a mop after flicking a switch to activate the lock at the front of the store, but the man outside had placed a stick in between the door and was able to enter undetected, wearing a ski mask and carrying a gun.
After a 30 to 40 second struggle, the 59-year-old married father of four was shot twice in the legs and once in the chest. Someone else, perhaps a customer, had called 911 earlier, but by the time police arrived he had already passed on according to Bazzi.
The shooter managed to take money from the register and also from Hussein as he laid on the floor.
While petty theft is common in the station, the violence and lack of respect for the victim came as a shock to Bazzi, who also owns the Clark station a few blocks down the road near Oakman.
Bazzi has reiterated to his employees not to leave the cashier area, which is protected by a glass encasement and locks.
“I don't care what their reason is, they should never leave that area,” he said. “And they should never fight back (because their life is much more important than money).”
The area is right in the middle of the economic storm plaguing the metro Detroit area, as streetlights on the way to the station along Oakman are out and uncut grass strewn with debris comprises the landscape of the area.
The robbery was the second one in the area in about a week and part of a long-running trend that began inDetroit and has now spilled into Highland Park and Dearborn among other areas.
Roughly a week ago, another clerk at the BP station on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park was robbed in a similar way. One of the robbers put a gun to his head but did not shoot him. Highland Park Police have not released any further information about the case.
Those with information on the robberies are asked to call the city's police department at 313.252.0050, ext. 315 or Crime Stoppers at 800.773.2587 (800-SPEAK-UP).
Bazzi showed a cell phone picture of one of the robbers whose face was partially obscured by the mask. He had a lighter complexion and dark eyebrows while Bazzi said the other man had a dark complexion. The security camera also showed the two men clearly as they entered the store.
Police are checking to see if the men may have been involved in other area robberies and may have a lead on one of the suspects.