Shooting victim `a gentleman'

Balto. Co. store owner killed in apparent robbery attempt

November 14, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,sun reporter

Cecelia Howell lingered yesterday outside the Speedy Mart convenience store and recalled that about a week ago, the last time she saw Muhammad R. Choudhry, the merchant was all smiles.

"He was so happy, he said, because he had all his family there working with him," said Howell, who frequently visited the store, in the Hillendale area of Baltimore County, to play Keno. "I had to come pay my respects. I only knew him for a minute, but he touched my life [with] his kindness."

Choudhry, 48, of the first block of Borgia Court in Perry Hall, was fatally shot in front of his wife and one of his sons about 9 p.m. Sunday during what investigators believe was an attempted armed robbery, Baltimore County police said yesterday.

Howell said that in four months of patronizing the convenience store at least once a week, she had learned that Choudhry and his wife have five children, all of whom she often saw working around the store.

As Choudhry's eldest son, Jawad, 21, left the store yesterday with his cousin, Atif Choudhry, 25, after meeting with a county police investigator, he said only that his mother, Farzana, 42, "isn't doing well."

Contacted later by phone, Jawad said his father brought the family to the United States from Lahore, Pakistan, about seven years ago so his children, who now range in age from 10 to 21, could be better educated.

"He was a good father, a good son and a good husband," said Jawad Choudhry, who added that his father drove a cab until about four months ago, when the family opened the Speedy Mart in the 7100 block of Darlington Drive.

Two intruders

According to police, two men wearing ski masks, black hooded sweat shirts, gloves and wielding handguns confronted the elder Choudhry and shot him in the upper body as he stood behind the counter.

"It all happened very, very quickly," said police spokesman Bill Toohey. He said no customers were in the store when the shooting occurred and that as far as police know, no money was stolen. No arrests had been made.

"The question now is, did anybody see anything?" Toohey said. "It wasn't all that late. Did someone see them walking in or leaving?"

The spokesman said Choudhry did not have a gun but declined to comment on whether he had any weapon.

The store owner had a baseball bat, according to a police source who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and who did not want to be identified.

Armed robberies are on the rise in the Baltimore metropolitan region, mirroring a nationwide trend, Toohey said. But he added that the area where Sunday's fatal shooting occurred has not been one of the county's hardest-hit areas.

He said that with the approaching holiday season, police expect to see more armed robberies and are deployed to areas that are statistically prone to such incidents.

Paying respects

Yesterday, Howell was among many patrons who came to the store to check on the family. Some parked their cars and walked to the doors to peek in. Others paused on the parking lot for a few minutes and then drove off.

Paul Patel, who said he knew Choudhry because they both owned convenience stores, said he had to come by the store to pay his respects.

"This was a gentleman, and that's why he was doing such good business," said Patel, who owns the Hamilton News convenience store in the 500 block of Harford Road and had considered buying the Speedy Mart several months ago.

"His two sons worked during the day and he worked at night," Patel said. "He was trying to decide about giving up the place because it was too much for him."

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