NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Police say a robbery at a deli in East Harlem turned deadly, after a worker refused to give a customer a discount.
Surveillance video shows a scuffle outside of Gourmet Deli on Second Avenue and East 102nd Street late Tuesday night. Officers said an argument started inside and then spilled onto the street, where a 34-year-old Ahmed Almulaki worked was stabbed in the torso.READ MORE: Avs Beat New York; Trouba Delivers Another Hard Check
His cousin told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge he came as fast as he could.
“He got into an argument with this customer. They ended up fighting. The customer had a knife on position. My cousin got stabbed on the side,” Mohamad Alzokari said.
EMS rushed Almulaki to New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police released photos of the man they’re looking for. Officers said he fled down 102nd Street.
“They were confronted by a frequent disorderly customer who is described as a male Hispanic, 30 years old, with a beard. This man demanded store credit. When he was denied that credit, he threatened to shoot the workers,” NYPD Chief of Detectives James Essig said.
Friends said the employee was working hard to support his wife and 12-year-old daughter in Yemen, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported.
“He’s a hardworking person. Every bodega is going to have problems, but nothing serious, and this time it just went out of line,” Alzokari said.
“It’s really bad. Whoever stabbed him should get good punishment, not just like easy punishment. This guy is working hard to feed his family,” witness Mohamed Sandfie said.READ MORE: Rockets Beat Shorthanded Nets For 7th Straight Win
“It heartbreaking. Honestly, I feel that, you know, hearing any kind of violence happening around here to anybody, especially to good people, is a horrible thing,” East Harlem resident Gian Batista said.
Customers told CBS2 the suspect wanted to use a credit to buy loose cigarettes, which are illegal to sell.
“You can pay later. You can come back if you don’t have it,” Larry Hall said.
It’s not clear why the suspect was denied. Both New York City mayoral candidates came to the scene.
Republican Curtis Sliwa said he would potentially have Consumer Affairs officials crack down on loose cigarette sales.
“Like so many other things in New York City, it’s looked upon as no crime at all. It flourishes, but it leads to all kinds of fights and disputes and, again, taxable revenue, it is no longer in coffers,” Sliwa said.
Democrat Eric Adams would not take questions, but said at a press conference, “We have to deal with this real issue of violence in our city. We focus not only on gun violence but the number of stabbings that we are seeing.”
Several organizations have banded together to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Police are asking anyone who has information about the suspect to contact them.MORE NEWS: New York Weather: CBS2’s 12/9 Thursday Morning Forecast
CBS2’s Lisa Rozner contributed to this report.