Slain Bodega Clerk Hoped to Return to Native Egypt in January, Friends Say
RIDGEWOOD — The bodega clerk who was shot and killed in an Onderdonk Avenue store had plans to visit his relatives in his native Egypt next month, friends said Friday.
Ishak Ghali, 26, who police said was shot and killed in All Friends Bodega at 674 Onderdonk Ave., was planning to go to Minya, Egypt, in January.
Friends said Ghali hadn't seen his family since he moved to the United States several years ago, but he frequently sent money back.
"We came here six and a half years ago for a better life," said friend Antonyous Solimon, 29. "He loved his parents and sisters. He was excited to see his family."
Ghali, who lived above the bodega, was working at the store Thursday when two young men wearing hoodies stormed in about 6 p.m., Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters Friday.
Armed with a .9-mm gun, the robbers shot Ghali in the face, Kelly said. They rushed the cash register and fled toward Gates Avenue, he added.
"He was apparently the sole owner who worked from 6 o'clock in the morning until 1 o'clock in the morning," Kelly said. "So very, very sad story."
Surveillance cameras in the store may not have been working during the shooting, but cops are canvassing neighboring businesses for their videos, Kelly said.
No one had been arrested as of Friday afternoon, an NYPD spokesman said. Police are offering $12,000 for information leading to the conviction of Ghali's killers.
Regulars at the bodega said Ghali was popular among customers for being tireless yet courteous.
"I'm devastated," said Iris, 45, who bought a coffee from Ghali every morning. "I'm really hurt.
"He worked hard," Iris, who declined to give her last name, added. "He'd work two days straight and he always had a smile on his face."
The Bodega Association of the United States said in statement Ghali was killed for "cigarettes and a few dollars." The NYPD could not immediately confirm that account, however.
The association's president, Fernando Mateo, said it would urge bodega owners to protect themselves and their employees.
"We will advise bodegueros to purchase bullet proof partitions, vests, and to consider applying for guns if necessary to defend themselves," he said. "Killing bodega clerks for pennies is a senseless crime."
"These men are armed and dangerous and must be arrested ASAP," Mateo said.
The association will ask the New York State Office of Victim Services to help send his body to Egypt for burial, Mateo said.
His friends, meanwhile, tried to remember Ghali for the generosity he always showed customers.
"He was awesome," said Fady Kalil, 18. "If you needed something, he'd always make sure you got it.
"He'd say, 'If you don't have money now, just pay me later,'" Kalil added.
With reporting by Ben Fractenberg