Underage Smoker Shoots Bodega Workers With BB Gun After He's Denied Cigar
CENTRAL HARLEM — An underage smoker turned away when he tried to buy a cigar at a Harlem bodega just days after the city's new rules upped the smoking age to 21 returned two days later on Sunday and fired at staff with a BB gun, according to police and victims.
The suspect, whose identity was not released and who is believed to be 20 years old, walked into the family-run Z & S Candy and Tobacco at 31 Lenox Ave. on Friday about 5 p.m. and pointed to a $5 Entourage cigar behind the counter, according to security footage obtained by DNAinfo.
Bodega clerk Ali Jaran, 23, asked the suspect for his identification and told him the new age to buy tobacco was 21. That's when the suspect — who would have been legal to buy the cigar less than a week earlier, before then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's legislation raised the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 — flew into a rage.
"Are you sure you want to do that? I'm a really violent person. I'm going to ask you one more time," the suspect told Jaran, according to the security footage.
The suspect, who can be seen on surveillance video with a mustache and a tattoo on his left hand, added: "Call the police. The next time you see me... [you're] going to die... I'm coming back for you."
Jaran, who works at the bodega with his 60-year-old father, 33-year-old cousin, and other relatives and staffers, said he didn't think anything of the threat.
But at 8:45 p.m. Sunday evening, the disgruntled customer returned as promised and tried to punch Jaran, who was working behind the counter. When the suspect couldn't reach Jaran, he started throwing magazines, the clerk said.
The suspect was accompanied by a girl, who police believe is between the ages of 18 and 21 and goes by the name Crystal, the NYPD said. The pair punched and scratched Jaran's cousin, who was standing by the door, before leaving, according to Jaran.
Thirty minutes later, two of the suspect's friends, believed to be between the ages of 18 and 21, showed up at the bodega, followed shortly by Crystal and the suspect, who donned a black mask over his face and a hoodie over his head, police said. Once the suspect was inside, the victims realized he had a gun tucked into his waistband, witnesses said.
"They didn't say nothing. He had his gun in his pants. My cousin said to my dad, 'He has a gun!' He pulled it out of his pants and shot my cousin in the leg," Jaran said.
"We didn't know it was a BB gun. We thought we were going to die," added Jaran, who was shot in the chest and the back of the head, with the BB pellets embedding themselves into his skin.
"He fired about five or six shots at me, but only two hit me," he explained. "It hurt though. It was stinging."
Next, Jaran's 60-year-old father tried to restrain the shooter, but was punched by the suspect's posse before being shot twice in the chest, Jaran said.
A fourth worker came from the rear of the shop to see what was going on and got shot in the head, Jaran added.
"He was bleeding all over," Jaran said.
The suspects fled the scene without taking anything, police added. They remained at large Wednesday afternoon, police said.
The victims had to have the BB pellets removed at St. Luke's Hospital and have since returned to work, the clerk said.
Jaran said the attack was the first fight he's seen over the city's new smoking age, which went into effect on May 18.
"He was the first person to get mad," he said. "People understand."
Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.