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Convenience store workers on alert following shooting

The new owners of BK's Liquor, Food & Gas on North Riverside Drive in Modesto were on high alert Saturday.

Shalan Elder and his brother had learned of the shooting death of a convenience store clerk early Friday. Although the attempted robbery occurred in Salida, the threat was all too real for the brothers.

Three weeks ago, Elder's family bought the liquor store from Balbir Boyal's family. Boyal was shot and killed during an attempted robbery June 7.

"Here, they shot the man and didn't take anything," Elder said while standing in front of his store. "Now, again, over there, they shot the man and didn't take anything. It's just crazy."

A masked gunman shot and killed Randeep Singh, 29, in the Sisk Road Quik Stop gas station about 1:35 a.m. Friday, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department reported.

Sheriff's deputy Royjindar Singh said two masked men entered the store to rob it. One of them reportedly shot Randeep Singh.

The deputy, who is not related to the victim, said Saturday night that there were no new developments in the case, but detectives were following up on leads.

There is no description of a getaway car or detailed description of the two robbers.

News of this latest shooting death forced some convenience store clerks and owners to consider the dangerous nature of operating a business that becomes a late-night target for thieves.

"It's always on your mind," Elder said. "This has got to be one of the most dangerous jobs out there. But what are you going to do? You have to feed your family."

Deputy Singh said the shooting appeared unrelated to a string of convenience store robberies in Stanislaus County last spring and summer that left Boyal dead and two others wounded.

Edward Deandre Mitchell, 19, of Modesto and Laron Tavon Davis, 22, of Ceres were arrested on suspicion of committing those crimes and are awaiting trial.

Elder said they knew of Boyal's death before they bought the store and were ready to take precautions to prevent anything like that from happening.

The store has video cameras, and Elder said they always have two or three employees working in the store.

He said the key preventive measure is to get to know who is a neighbor and who might be suspicious.

"We're just watching all the time, taking a look at everyone who comes by," Elder said.

After learning of Singh's death, Elder said, they decided to close about 10 p.m. this weekend, an hour earlier than normal.

He criticized store owners who stay open all night and have only one clerk in the store.

Deputy Singh said the clerk in Salida was alone in the store when he was shot. Customers found him moments later, said Mohinder Bhatti, the victim's uncle and the owner of the gas station.

"If you can't afford to have more than one person working, then you shouldn't be open 24 hours," Elder said.

Saleh Suwaid, 24, hadn't learned about Singh's death until Saturday afternoon, but he was just as shocked as anyone else. He has worked the last four years as a manager at the 24-hour Valero gas station at Hatch Road and Dallas Street in south Modesto.

Suwaid only works day shifts, but he said he hasn't heard of any robbery attempts at his station.

"Since it hasn't happened here, we don't really try to think about it too much," Suwaid said.

With cameras watching vehicles and customers as they approach the front of the store, he feels safe, he said.

Aveen Chahal was on the morning shift Saturday at his parent's Quick Stop on Monte Vista Avenue in Turlock. He said he's not concerned about robberies during the day, but if anything did happen at night, it would crush his parents.

"We're hoping to lock the door at night," he said.

Other gas stations, he said, have sliding teller-style drawers and windows for late-night purchases. "We're hoping Quik Stop will put one in."

At the Chevron station on Geer Road, Rosa Marcus wrapped her knuckles on the sliding drawer behind the register. "You could sell from here at night," she said, "but we don't."

Marcus said daytime or night, when a clerk is killed, everyone feels it.

"Oh yeah, I'm concerned (for my safety)," she said. "Robberies happen during the daytime, too. Why someone has to go into the ground for a few hundred bucks. I don't know. I just hope they do something about it."

The Sheriff's Department asks anyone with information about the Salida shooting to call Detective Ken Hedrick at 525-7083. Callers also can leave an anonymous tip by calling CrimeStoppers at 521-4636 and be eligible for a cash reward.

To comment, click on the link with this story at www.modbee.com. Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at rahumada@modbee.com or 578-2394.

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