TAMPA — There is no surveillance system inside Sam's Food Mart, police say.
Owners installed protective glass for the clerks, according to customers, but it is unclear if the clerk was behind it Wednesday when she was shot inside the store.
Witnesses may be Tampa police's only chance to find out who shot Marilyn Rivera Tejada and why. They are asking anyone who saw something around 3 p.m. in the area of the store at 4215 N 15th St., just two blocks north of E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in central Tampa, to contact them.
"Any little detail, it might seem minute, can really help solve this case," said Laura McElroy, a spokeswoman for Tampa police.
Tejada, 53, of Tampa was minutes from the end of her shift when the store's owner, Hasan Qasem, found her wounded on the floor.
She had been shot at least once in the upper body, McElroy said.
Tampa Fire Rescue rushed the clerk to an area hospital where McElroy said she was in "very critical condition" Wednesday night.
Tejada didn't feel comfortable Wednesday and was jittery around 2:30 p.m. when Darlene Moreno, 56, came into the store. "She told me 'I love you.' and we hugged," Moreno, a caregiver from Tampa, said. Police said the owner found her at 3:12 p.m.
"She is a wonderful person," Moreno said. "I don't know why anyone would do this."
The uneasy feeling started much earlier in the day, said Wanda Hopkins, 54, of Tampa.
Hopkins visited the store at 8:45 a.m. and Tejada was still balancing the register. The door was locked. When Tejada opened it, the women talked about all the strange people coming into the store lately and walking through the neighborhood.
Recently, Hopkins said Tejada told her a customer had snatched a 12-pack of beer and she had tried to prevent the person from running out without paying. Hopkins cautioned Tejada not to do that in the future.
"I told her 'It's not worth your life,' " Hopkins said.
She said Tejada often left open the door to a glass partition that protects the cashier area from potential criminals.
"I wish she had just locked the door," Hopkins said tearfully.
Tejada went to work in Sam's Food Mart about five years ago, said her nephew, Ahmad Abdi, 16, a Leto High School junior. She had moved from the Philippines to live with a sister in South Carolina. Later, Abdi's father, Tejada's brother-in-law, offered her a job in Tampa working at Sam's.
She moved down and spent a lot of time with her other sister, Abdi said.
"She came over to visit us a couple of days ago," Abdi said. "She was in good spirits."
Abdi said Tejada's parents still live in the Philippines. McElroy said she may also have an estranged husband in her native country.
Less than a half mile away, a store owner was shot in broad daylight in August.
Yasin A. Sara, 55, owner of Y&S Supermarket at 1202 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., was shot in the abdomen during a robbery attempt on Aug. 17.
Police tracked down a suspect, Carlos Roberto Laboy. He was shot and killed in a confrontation with police on Aug. 24.
Sara's store also didn't have surveillance equipment.
McElroy said witnesses will be vital to finding Tejada's shooter. Anyone with information about the shooting can contact Tampa police at (813) 231-6130.