By Jim Schoettler | Jacksonville Times-Union
Aron Demoz (left), cousin of the recently slain Hagos Gebreegziabher, looks up the doors of the convenience store on Tuesday along with the victim’s brother Atakelte Admasu, both immigrants from Ethiopia (JIM SCHOETTLER | The Times-Union)
JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA — An Ethiopian immigrant and store owner who moved to Jacksonville to raise a family and live the American Dream died late Monday after being gunned down outside his convenience store.
Witnesses said the attack in the 2100 block of West 13th Street may have been a retaliation shooting involving neighborhood youths who had previously given the man trouble. Police said another motive could have been robbery, though the victim’s family said nothing was stolen.
Hagos Admasu Gebreegziabher, 41, was with his wife closing the Family Food Store when shots were fired from across the street about 11 p.m., family members said. Gebreagziabher died at the scene. His wife was not injured.
The victim’s wife told witnesses she saw two people run from the area. Witnesses who were in the Northwest Jacksonville store shortly before the shooting said that the owner had previously had words with several youths who had repeatedly caused him trouble.
No arrests have been made.
Gebreegziabher’s brother and cousin said he moved to Jacksonville from Ethiopia about 15 years ago and was married with two teenage sons. He opened the shop in 2007 in a strip of stores in a crime-ridden neighborhood just north of Kings Road near the Flag Street Apartments.
Aron Demoz, the cousin, said the victim tried fixing up the store and enjoyed helping people in the neighborhood. He said his cousin was living the American Dream.
“It’s not justified what happened to him. Absolutely not justified,” said Demoz, 41, moments before he padlocked the store’s front doors.
The store served as the local grocery hub, where neighbors bought food like sausage, chips and condiments and also played three video gaming machines.
The neighbors fondly called the victim “Buddy” and described him as a kind, hard-working man. They said he would often give them food on credit when they were facing hard times.
“He was a good man,” said Cynthia Dove, 46, who lives across the street.
More gunshots ran out five hours later in a second slaying at the Kendall Court Apartments, 10535 Lem Turner Road. Homicide Lt. Larry Schmitt said police and rescue crews were called about 4:30 a.m. and found a man dead in the parking lot. No other details were made available by police.
Linda Dayson, who leads a local crime-fighting organization, lives in the complex. She said she and her fiance heard shots about 4:15 a.m. and when he came outside, he found the man slain.
Dayson said she wasn’t sure of the man’s identity. She said he lived in the complex with his girlfriend and they had three small children together.
Dayson, president of Hurting Families with Children in Crime, said she is incensed with the ongoing violence in her neighborhood and throughout the city. She called on police, city officials and local pastors to make a stand.
“We have too many young people getting killed,” Dayson said. “All these people are saying they want to help. I’m not seeing it.”
There have been 35 homicides in Jacksonville this year, compared to 55 slayings at the same time last year.
(Anyone with information can contact the Sheriff’s Office at (904) 630-0500 or First Coast Crime Stoppers at (866) 845-8477 (845-TIPS) to remain anonymous and be eligible for rewards.)