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Family, customers mourn Seminole convenience store clerk killed during robbery

SEMINOLE — Debra Clausen never had to say a word when she walked through the door of JFS Food Mart.

Before she even got to the counter, nighttime clerk Mohammod T. Islam would already have her order ready. He knew it by heart.

"He knew the cigarettes I liked," said Clausen, 32. "He knew my name. He knew me."

On Thursday, Clausen and her fiance made their usual trip to the corner store in a small strip shopping center at 11801 Seminole Blvd. Islam wasn't inside.

The night before, authorities said, someone walked into the store and killed him during a robbery.

"Never once would I walk in and he wouldn't say, 'Have a good day.' That means a lot," said Clausen, who has been stopping by the neighborhood convenience store for years.

She and her fiance added a candle to a growing makeshift memorial Thursday night.

"It's just scary it happened right here," she said. "It's hard, and it hits home."

Pinellas sheriff's detectives released a surveillance video on Thursday of the robber entering the store and this description: He is a slender black man in his late teens to early 20s; he was wearing a large stud-type earring in each ear; he had on baggy clothes, a gray hoodie sweatshirt with an insignia on the front and black trim on the sides, gray sweatpants and black Converse high-top sneakers.

Deputies said he fled on a BMX-style bicycle after fatally wounding Islam.

"I'm told that the homicide unit has received some tips, which they are diligently pursuing," sheriff's spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Thursday night.

Islam, 37, was found on the floor behind the counter by another store employee and a customer just before 7 p.m. Wednesday, sheriff's officials said.

He was taken to Bayfront Medical Center and pronounced dead, deputies said.

Witnesses said it appeared that Islam had been shot. But the Sheriff's Office has not said how the clerk was injured.

"It's just terrible," said Jeff Sweatmon, 35, Clausen's fiance. "It's like a little family atmosphere around here. It's a ridiculous crime to have happened. He was never cross to anybody."

Mohammod T. Islam, known as "Murphy" to family, was born in Bangladesh. He moved to Clearwater three years ago from Port Charlotte.

He married Bibi Narisha Rahaman, 33, about seven years ago. They have no children.

"He was a really good man," his wife told Bay News 9. "I'm feeling really, really shocked, heartbroken, too much pain. It's too much."

Islam worshiped at the Al Hamza Mosque on Clearwater-Largo Road.

"It was a shock," said Asif Mohamed, who knew him from the mosque. "He was always smiling, always jolly."

Back at the store Thursday night, a makeshift memorial grew as the night wore on.

Regulars came and went. They hugged the man and woman behind the counter and wiped tears from their cheeks. Many stopped a few doors down at the Family Dollar and bought candles and cards to add to the memorial. Some bought flowers from the Winn-Dixie across the street.

By closing time, about 8 p.m., there were 15 bouquets of flowers and 23 candles in front of the door.

"You don't realize how much these people you spend 10 minutes a day with impact your life until something like this happens," said Clausen, who last saw Islam on Tuesday. "They really mean a lot to us."

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643.

The man who killed store clerk Mohammod T. Islam, 37, was photographed by the store’s surveillance camera. To see video of the robber, go to tampabay.com.video.

The man who killed store clerk Mohammod T. Islam, 37, was photographed by the store’s surveillance camera. To see video of the robber, go to tampabay.com.video.

. facts

How to help

Anyone with information about the robbery or suspect can call the Sheriff's Office at (727) 582-6200 or Crime Stoppers toll-free at 1-800-873-8477.

Family, customers mourn Seminole convenience store clerk killed during robbery 12/29/11 [Last modified: Friday, December 30, 2011 5:42pm]
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