An unopened pack of cigarettes sits on the Rev. Johnny Billingslea’s dresser.
Billingslea bought them Saturday at the Chevron station at 1257 Riverside Drive. It was the last time he saw 29-year-old Dipak Patel, a clerk at the store, alive.
“He was a wonderful person,” Billingslea said of Patel, also known as “Danny.”
Patel, who lived on Tobee Drive in Lizella, was shot to death Sunday night when two men robbed the convenience store.
A female clerk and two customers told police that the men, dressed in black, walked into the store about 10 p.m., and one of the men carried an “A.K.-style” rifle, according to a police report.
The men took money from the clerk, but before they left, the gunman fired a shot that struck Patel under the armpit, police and Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.
Patel died about 10:45 p.m. Sunday at The Medical Center of Central Georgia, according to the report.
The suspects were last seen running up Riverside Drive toward Madison Street.
At lunchtime Monday, cars streamed through the store’s parking lot. Most of them left fairly quickly after finding the business closed for the day.
Many regular customers arrived not knowing of the deadly violence from the previous night.
Billingslea struck his steering wheel with his hand when he heard the news. He said he’s stopped by the Chevron, located near Riverside Cemetery, daily for years to buy gas or pick up cigarettes, always striking up a conversation with the workers.
Another regular customer, Bruce Davis of Macon, said he didn’t know Patel personally, but he wanted to express condolences to Patel’s family and co-workers.
Wendye Parker grabbed her head with both hands when she heard the news Monday.
She described Patel as a kind man who was willing to let her buy an item even if she was a little short on cash.
Family members and Patel’s co-workers declined to comment Monday.
The store has been the scene of another recent attack. Another clerk at the store was injured in July when a customer struck her in the head with a beer bottle. The customer had stormed out of the store before the attack because someone cut in line in front of him. When he returned, the beer he had planned to purchase had been returned to the cooler.
The man grabbed a beer bottle from the cooler and struck the clerk. He was charged with aggravated assault, according to the police.
Anyone with information about Sunday’s robbery and Patel’s slaying is asked to call police at 751-7500 or Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at (877) 68-CRIME.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report. Telegraph staff writers Liz Fabian and Phillip Ramati contributed to this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.