ST. PETERSBURG — Two weeks after a robber shot him three times, Narendra Patel was back standing in the same spot where he came under fire:
The cash register at the Star Deli.
"I have no choice," he said Wednesday.
That's because the convenience store at 2451 Fifth Ave. N is the only way the Patel family can make a living.
But it has not been a safe living. The 53-year-old store owner and father of two has been shot twice in the past six years.
The latest robbery took place Dec. 1 when police said Patel was shot in the right foot, chest and left hand by a masked robber.
A witness told police the gunman appeared upset with what he stole from the register.
Two days later, the victim's brother, Indravadan Patel, also became a victim when his store, Suhani, was robbed at 2539 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.
A masked gunman jumped over the counter and shot the 46-year-old father of three on Dec. 3.
The same two men may be responsible for both robberies, police said. Detectives don't believe the family was being targeted, but their stores may have shared the same vulnerabilities.
That's why the Patel family is taking more precautions these days. The owner was working alone when he was shot. Now two people work at all times. They also had an electronic door lock installed. Before the robbery anyone could come and go. Now the door stays locked at night until a patron rings the bell.
It took Narendra Patel a year to return to work when a robber's bullet took a piece of his lung in 2002. This time, it was just a matter of days.
But it hasn't been easy. He keeps his crutches behind the counter. He sits on a high chair behind the register when he can't stand anymore.
"I'm still in pain," he said.
His brother was more seriously injured by a gunshot to the stomach and remains in Bayfront Medical Center almost three weeks later.
The family said he is out of danger but may have to remain in the hospital for another week or two.
Anyone with information about the robberies is asked to call the St. Petersburg Police Department at (727) 893-7164 or at (727) 893-7780.
Jamal Thalji can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8472.