Murder of 20-year-old bodega employee sparks calls for justice and safety

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A bodega worker was fatally shot Tuesday in Williamsbridge and his family is calling for justice for what they started out as an argument over cigarettes.

Police say a call came in for a shooting at the bodega at 3700 White Plains Road.

Police say 20-year-old Mohammed Qutaish was shot in the torso and was taken to Montefiore Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead.

They say 28-year-old Adrien Topping was arrested in connection to the shooting.

The father of Qutaish told News 12 that what happened in this bodega is what he feared the most for his son. In fact, the father stated that he raised his son overseas even though he was born in the U.S. That was until two years ago when Qutaish returned to the Bronx two years ago and started working at a bodega.

“I couldn’t sleep,” his father said. “I keep on thinking about it, like you don’t got no heart as a human being.”

People in the neighborhood say they were saddened to hear about the 20-year-old's death but weren't surprised.

"Young lady came in the store asking for cigarettes. He wouldn't sell her those cigarettes, so she started behaving erratically, started cursing at him. 'I'm a go get my man'. Her man went and got a gun, came back in the store and killed him. He's a good guy just like the lady just said, cool calm respectful kid. Just trying to make a living. Over a cigarette. It's that petty. Over loosies," said a man who was in the deli at the time of the shooting.

New surveillance video from inside the bodega has been released. The video captured Topping and his sister standing around before he pulls out a gun and points it right at Qutaish.

Authorities say Topping is the brother of the 25-year-old woman who was asking for cigarettes. It is believed that she is in custody as well. News 12 is told that she was also charged and released for having a controlled substance, but that charge wasn't connected to the shooting.

As Qutaish’s death sparks calls for justice from elected officials, business leaders and his family, Topping now faces charges of murder, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon.

“When you do something mean like that, you deserve to go to jail for a long time,” his father said.

Outside the bodega a memorial has been created in his memory. Customers who knew him say he was a good guy with a long life to live.

"I'm so broken and shattered because he was so humble and nice, never bothered anybody, never disrespected a soul,” a customer said.

Locals in the area say deli workers need better safety measures, as Qutaish’s death comes just four days after another deli worker, Yahya Almunster, was killed while on the job in the Bronx.

In the wake of this tragedy, the Yemini Merchants Association will be training its members de-escalation tactics. The association will also be working to better the relationships between bodega employees and the communities they serve.

News 12 is told the bodega remains closed.

MORE: Bodega worker fatally shot at White Plains Road deli; 2 people in custody 

MORE: Police sources: Man fatally shot inside Mott Haven deli

 

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