Security guard slain in bid to foil food store robbery Lone gunman fled on foot, police say

October 26, 1991|By S. M. Khalid

A 41-year-old security guard was shot and killed yesterday while trying to foil a robbery attempt at a West Baltimore grocery store.

Melvin Powell, of the 2900 block of Arunah Avenue, was shot inside the Save Rite Family Food Center in the 1700 block of West Baltimore Street at 5:45 p.m. as he approached a lone gunman at the register who was armed with a sawed-off shotgun, police said.

According to homicide detectives, the security guard had been alerted to the robbery attempt and as he drew his 9mm semiautomatic handgun, he was felled by a shotgun blast to the chest fired by the unidentified assailant. The gunman fled on foot.

A woman who identified herself as one of Mr. Powell's six sisters came to the store and tried to get in to see her brother but was restrained by police officers. "Why did they have to kill him? Why did they have kill him?" she screamed. "I want to see him."

Mr. Powell lived in the 2900 block of Arunah Avenue with his 19-year-old daughter, Keisha, who is a freshman at Coppin State College, and his 10-year-old son, Melvin Powell Jr.

He had worked as a security guard for more than 10 years, the last three at the Save Rite store, Keisha Powell said. During this time he had never fired his gun, Ms. Powell said.

She described her father as a friendly, outgoing person. "He got along with everyone," she said.

Last night, shaken neighborhood residents who milled outside around the store remembered Mr. Powell as a generous and helpful presence in the market.

"He would help out at the register. He would help out if the lines got too long in the store," said Gloria Taylor. "He would tell you about sales on certain items. He was very fair, very much fair. We're very sorry to see this."

Renee Butler, a former employee at the market, remembered Mr. Powell's kindness. "I've seen him give money out of his own pocket if you were a few dollars short for groceries."

"He didn't deserve to be killed," she said.

Several people, including four other employees, were in the store during the shooting.

Police said witnesses described the gunman as being about 5 feet 8 inches tall, a 185-pound black man wearing glasses, a red baseball cap, red jacket and jeans.

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