OCALA, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - A clerk at an Ocala convenience store was shot and killed on Friday morning during a robbery, according to investigators. Police officers arrived at the Jiffy Food Store, at 2425 NW Blitchton Road, around 10 a.m. to find the victim, identified as 33-year-old Ujjval "Rocky" Patel, deceased.
Chilling surveillance video taken from the store's security cameras shows the gunman burst through the front door of the store and pointing a gun. A second clip of surveillance video shows the gunman climbing on top the counter and then over, pointing the gun at Patel.
"I heard a lot of scuffling and rumbling and Rocky yelling," explained Vincent Lester, an employee at the store who was making breakfast for customers, "and I happened to look around the corner and this guy was almost over the counter, trying to take something to Rocky, trying to rob him."
Lester said the suspect pulled out a pistol and shot Patel "at point-blank range." The shooter then ran out of the store, according to Lester, who immediately called 911. "I thought the bullet went in the wall. I saw Rocky fall. I thought he was just frightened and fell to the floor, but when I kept calling his name, he didn't answer."
People gathered at the store over the course of the afternoon. They described Patel as a "good man" who "treated customers like family." "He knew everybody by name. He called me 'Auntee,'" said Renee Walker. Walker said Patel started working at the store years ago, when he was just a teenager.
"If you come up short with change in the store, he'll give it to you. You come up and short on food, he'll give it to you," said customer Gwen Patterson.
Lester said Patel worked at the store six days a week to support his parents. "Very nice, outgoing, always happy, a jokester," he said. "He loved his parents, loved his job."
The suspect is described as a black man who stands about 5 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs approximately 170 pounds. He was wearing a red shirt or hoodie and blue jeans. Police say a mask covered his face.
Anyone with information on this murder is asked to call Crimestoppers or the Ocala Police Department. (352)368-STOP.