A store clerk of Indian descent in Grand Rapids, Michigan, survived a shot to the face during a robbery this weekend. The store’s managers are calling the attack a hate crime, as the gunman shouted racist epithets at the clerk.
The robbery at Bottlenecks Food and Drink Shop took place on Saturday night (December 12). Fox17 West Michigan released surveillance footage that shows the clerk emptying money from the cash register at gunpoint before the gunman shoved him into a back room. An anonymous store manager told Fox17 that the thief hurled racist language at the clerk (identified only as “Tony”), accusing him of being part of ISIS, calling him a terrorist and saying, “I used to kill people like you in Iraq.”
The manager says that in the back room, which didn’t have a camera, the gunman put the gun’s barrel in Tony’s mouth and forced him to his knees. Tony fought back, grabbing the rifle and moving it to the side as the gunman pulled the trigger. He was shot in the cheek, and the man fired two more shots that missed before leaving with the money. MLive.com reports that Tony was released from the hospital on Sunday (December 13) and that Grand Rapids police confirmed his report to the manager about racist abuse.
Gurleen Kaur, whose father owns the shop, is quoted by MLive.com as saying that she believes Tony was threatened because of his ethnicity:
“It could’ve happened to anyone that looks like us,” she said.
“We’re Americans,” she said. “We’re trying to live normal lives, be Americans.”
Both Kaur and Grand Rapids Police Sargeant Terry Dixon said that Tony responded bravely and averted what could have been a much more serious incident. Police only have a vague description of the assailant. He’s believed to be a Black man, and he wore a mask, black hoodie, quilted flannel shirt and black pants. As of Monday, police are not investigating the incident as a hate crime.