TAMPA — An investigation into a convenience store shooting earlier this week turned into a murder case Thursday.
Marilyn Rivera Tejada, 53, of Tampa, a store clerk shot Wednesday during what police say was a midafternoon robbery, has died at Tampa General Hospital of a wound to her upper body.
Tejada worked at the Sam's Food Mart at 4215 N 15th St., just two blocks north of E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Central Tampa. Police, lacking video of the shooting (the store had no surveillance system), are urging anyone who saw anything in the area around 3 p.m. Wednesday to come forward.
Two white banners hung on the side of Sam's on Thursday evening. Customers and friends scrawled good-byes and support with markers. Children placed teddy bears, candles and drawings they made for the clerk they called "mama" and "auntie."
Almost all expressed shock at the cruelty of the shooter. Tejada, a native of the Philippines, had worked at the store for five years and was known to engage her customers in conversation.
"She was a nice lady," said Michael Pope, 47, a neighbor of Sam's. "I don't know why anyone would hurt her."
The Sam's Food Mart robbery is the second in the neighborhood in recent months that ended in a shooting.
In August, a robber shot owner Yasin Sara in the abdomen at Y&S Supermarket, a half-mile from Sam's at 1202 E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Sara survived and the robbery suspect was shot and killed by Tampa police in an altercation days later. Y&S also didn't have surveillance cameras.
Nearby merchants voiced sadness over the shooting and acknowledged they, too, have anxiety about being victimized.
"We are all concerned about that," said Abdullah Abdul, 39, who works at the nearby 22nd Street Gyros. He said store owners should install a system as a precaution. Abdul said his shop's surveillance system is a deterrent to would-be criminals but can't prevent a tragedy.
"If it's somebody from outside the area, they don't care about cameras," Abdul said. "We're all in the same boat."
Hope Market clerk Jack Humer said he believes Tejada was targeted.
"She's a woman and she's older and they took advantage of her," said Humer, 45, of Tampa. "There has to be security measures on the inside of the store."
Humer heard from customers that Tejada would leave the window to the bulletproof glass cage protecting the cashier area open. "That's not safe anywhere," he said. "It doesn't matter if you have a video camera or not.
"The damage is done," he said. "What video camera can bring her back to life?"
Family-owned businesses can't change the way they run because the potential of being robbed exists, said Raymonde Delorieus, 46, co-owner of the Floridian Mini Market on E Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and N 21st Street.
"It's a heartbreak. We have children and families, and we come in every day to serve the community," she said. "It's what we do for a living. We serve the people."
Delorieus said the store owners of the community hope the police can do something to ensure that shoppers and employees remain safe in the neighborhood.
"I hope they can keep (their) eyes out," she said. "We leave home every day going to work and our families are going to expect us to come back."
Anyone with information about the robbery or shooting at Sam's Food Mart can contact the Tampa Police Department at (813) 231-6130.
Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.