CHICAGO — A shop owner, father and grandfather of three was fatally shot Wednesday during a robbery at his Gage Park automotive parts store, family and police said.
Michael Kozel, 57, was shot in the back about 5:20 p.m. while fleeing two robbers who were holding up his store, Independent Mufflers Inc., in the 5600 block of South Western Avenue, according to authorities.
The victim, who lived in the 2700 block of West Seipp Street in Ashburn, was transported to John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 9:09 p.m., according to the the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
The two suspects then robbed one of the store's employees and made off with an undisclosed amount of money before fleeing, police said. No other injuries were reported. No suspects are in custody, police said.
Inside the family's Ashburn home, a stunned-looking Antonia Kozel said her husband had owned the auto shop for more than 20 years.
"It was everything," she said. "It was how he provided for us."
He leaves behind two children and three grandchildren. Antonia Kozel said they had been married for 37 years and had met as teenagers.
He loved cars, was part of a community of lowrider enthusiasts and owned his own lowrider Impala, family said.
At the garage, Michael Kozel would negotiate prices so folks could afford it, family said.
"My dad had the biggest heart," Amber Kozel said. "There's no words to describe the pain."
She said her brother was at the shop at the time of robbery. It was unclear if any money was taken from him.
Neighbor Vanessa Barnes, 49, who said she's lived across the street from Kozel and his family for the last 19 years, said he seemed kind and considerate.
"It's tragic to hear something like that," Barnes said of his killing.
He was a hardworking regular family man, his neighbor said.
"Just doing like the rest of us," Barnes said. "Just trying to live."
"It's completely unbelievable," she said. "My heart goes out to the family. The crime situation in this city is too much."
Crime along that stretch of South Western Avenue was always prevalent but never a problem for the shop, his wife said.
"There is always issues with crime on that area," she said.
When asked what she had to say to the robbers, Antonia Kozel said flatly: "Die."