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Crime Wave Hits Bodegas, Threatening a Lifeline in the Pandemic

“We didn’t mind,” he said. “Why would we bother the cops for that?”

By late October, however, Mr. Parekh said he and his store clerks knew they could not sustain the losses.

One of the repeat shoplifters was a man who had been living in a van near the store, Mr. Parekh said. The man shoplifted a pint of ice cream on Oct. 26, then returned later that night.

Mr. Tarwala, who was known as Iyan, immediately led the man, identified by the police as Steven Cohen, 63, out of the store, and held the door shut to prevent him from re-entering, Mr. Parekh recalled.

“We didn’t know he had a gun,” he said.

The move only infuriated Mr. Cohen, Mr. Parekh remembered. He shoved his way in, pulled a pistol and shot Mr. Tarwala in the stomach, the police said.

As Mr. Tarwala collapsed, Mr. Cohen fired two more rounds. One bullet pierced a plexiglass divider set up to prevent the spread of the virus, Mr. Parekh said.

An off-duty police officer, Jason Maharaj, happened to be standing by the cash register when Mr. Cohen burst in, the police said. The officer pounced on the gunman and quickly disarmed him. Mr. Cohen was later charged with murder.

Mr. Parekh said that the bullet hole “reminds me every day of what happened.”

“The guy opened the door and boom,” he said. “If that off-duty cop wasn’t here, I would be dead right now.”

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