Jimmy Khela loved his customers.
As a clerk for Pronto Food Mart, Khela, 38, learned to speak Spanish, a skill that came in handy since the majority of his customers in the Diamond Hill neighborhood were Hispanic.
On Sunday, customers and residents remained in shock as homicide detectives appealed for help to find the gunman who walked into the store Saturday afternoon and fatally shot Khela during a holdup.
Detectives said Sunday that Khela was cooperating at all times and following the gunman’s demands.
But without provocation, the armed bandit opened fire and killed Khela.
“He never said a bad word to anyone,” owner Madha Atallah said Sunday afternoon, fighting back tears. Khela had worked for Atallah for two years. “He helped everyone.”
Customer Maria Sanchez praised the clerk. Sanchez stopped by the store Sunday afternoon and offered her condolences to Atallah.
“He [Khela] always talked to me,” Sanchez said. “I never saw him in a bad mood.”
Sanchez said that she had just gone by the store at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“There was the young woman working there at the time,” Sanchez said. “He hadn’t arrived yet.”
Detectives said that at about 4:30 p.m. Saturday, a lone gunman walked in the store in the 800 block of East Long Avenue and began making demands.
No other customers were in the store — just Khela and a female employee.
At some point, the gunman opened fire on Khela.
“The young woman crawled through the drive-through window to escape,” Sanchez said. Sanchez visited the employee in the hospital shortly after the shooting.
Residents said they heard as many as five shots.
After the shooting, the gunman ran out of the store.
When officers arrived, Khela was found on the floor. He was pronounced dead at 4:45 p.m. Saturday, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s website.
On Sunday, detectives released photographs of the suspect taken by store surveillance cameras.
Police described the suspect as a white or Hispanic man, about 25 to 30 years old, 5-foot-8 to 5-foot-10 and weighing between 160 to 180 pounds.
He was wearing a Bulls baseball cap, a burgundy bandana over his face, a long-sleeve dark shirt, gray pants (possibly sweatpants) and brown work boots.
The gunman was armed with a two-tone color handgun.
“Jimmy was a great guy,” Atallah said, referring to his employee.
The store was closed Sunday, and Atallah said he didn’t know when it would be open.
Anyone who has information on the case or recognizes the photographs of the suspect should call 911 or Crime Stoppers at 817-469-8477. Residents also can call homicide detectives at 817-392-4330 or visit www.469tips.com.
Source: Fort Worth Police