NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Police are searching for a man who stabbed a bodega worker to death Wednesday in Upper Manhattan.
The 28-year-old worker, identified as Mohamed Nasser Awawdah, was fatally stabbed around 8 p.m. on Dyckman Street in the Inwood section.
Police said Awawdah was clearing the sidewalk in front of Dyckman Kwik Stop and asked a group of men, apparently loitering, to move away from the front of the store. A fight escalated until one man pushed a knife into Awawdah's chest.
He was rushed to Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
"When I come in this direction, I just saw him suddenly collapse, and a lot of people start coming out," said one witness who walked by just after the stabbing.
His family in New Rochelle told CBS2 he was married, and worked not just in the deli but also as a livery cab driver. The family asked we respect their privacy.
"It was senseless," said Fernando Mateo of United Bodegas of America. Mateo met with the family and relayed a message from them to the media: Deli workers are easy targets and that must change.
"Stabs you to death just because you asked them to move. I think more resources have to be spent on protecting bodega owners," said Mateo.
"My call is for One Police Plaza to dedicate more resources, to increase the number of police officers patrolling this area," said City Council member Ydanis Rodriguez.
City leaders and members of another workers group, the Bodega Association, were in front of the closed Dyckman Street Deli, calling for panic buttons in bodegas.
Awawdah, of New Rochelle, reportedly owned the family business.
"It's hard to believe that 1 year ago today we were mourning the death of Junior Guzman and today we are mourning the death of a young Bodega clerk. Attacks can happen to anyone at any given time regardless of who they are. Every Bodega in NYC should convert to a Safe Haven Bodega so they can lock people out of their store if necessary," United Bodegas of America spokesperson Francisco Marte said in a statement. "We are saddened with this loss and hope the persons responsible for this attack are caught. The UBA wants Mayor DeBlasio to do more to STOP attacks on Bodega owners in NYC."
"Mohamed was 28 years old, how can someone just take his life simply because he asked them to keep it moving. NYC needs to invest more resources to protect small business from these type of attacks," said UBA President Radames Rodriguez.
Awawdah was recently married and had just moved to the area from Florida, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported. Neighbors described him as very hard working.
"They have a lot of risk. I believe they should just close the door, open the little window there and that's it," said Inwood resident Victor Gonzalez. "Some of these bodegas you can see they have it in there, and it's for their own security."
"I don't know him, but that is so sad. This neighborhood just keeps getting worse," a woman added.
So far, investigators have not released a description of the suspect.
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