Chelle Brown couldn’t hold back the tears.
Her beloved clerk at the Gary Food Mart was gunned down in an armed robbery just hours after she left the Bloomfield convenience store.
“I always called him ‘Boo,’ and he plays a lot,” said Brown, 26, who drove up to the store with her mother after dawn. “My friend said, ‘You’re crying like you’re married to him,’ but good people are hard to find and when you find a good-hearted person, you hold onto him.”
Surveillance images show two men, bent over, pointing guns toward the counter, likely where Prakash Patel was working in the fairly new building.
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Another photo shows the back side of one of the men, bent over, picking up what looks like cash, while exposing nearly all of his reddish boxer shorts.
Patel was wounded in the chest about 1:25 a.m. at the store and Sunoco Gas Station at at 3306 Bloomfield Drive, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones said.
The 40-year-old was pronounced dead at Medical Center, Navicent Health at 2:16 a.m., Jones said.
Several co-workers and friends stood outside of the fairly new store off Williamson Road near where it becomes Brownley Drive.
“He gave them the money, I don’t understand,” said one of the men who declined to speak on camera after they removed soiled floor mats and other items from the store before closing it for the day.
One of them who was in the store at the time of the shooting was escorted away by a Bibb sheriff’s lieutenant for questioning downtown.
Other people were in the store, but no one else was injured, according to a sheriff’s news release.
Deputies were scouring the community, looking for the two gunmen in black hoodies and bandannas over their faces who demanded money from Patel before the shooting.
Radio lookouts indicated the gunmen could be linked to an earlier carjacking.
The carjacking victim gave a description similar to the suspects in the killing, said Deputy Linda Howard, a public information officer for the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office.
One of the robbers had a silver handgun and the other carried a sawed-off shotgun as they robbed the store, according to a sheriff’s news release.
The man with the handgun jumped over the counter while the other held the shotgun on Patel, the news release stated.
One of them shot Patel before leaving the store.
“When I found out it was him, I’ve just been crying,” Brown said. “How can you kill someone with such a good heart. … God, really, is it worth it for a couple of dollars? … You don’t have to kill nobody, especially nobody like him. When that man do anything to help.”
Brown said that when she was short of cash and trying to buy bread or juice for her kids, Patel would reach into his own pockets and make up the difference until she would pay him back.
Another lady drove up to the store, which was surrounded with yellow crime scene tape.
“Those are my friends in that store,” said the lady who did not want to be identified. “They didn’t have to kill the man. That’s just sad.”
The robbers are described as black males — one with black pants, a black bandanna covering his face, a white belt and black shoes with white soles.
The other had dreadlocks and was wearing a blue bandanna, black and blue hoodie, black pants, white undershirt, red shorts and black shoes.