Residents of a northeast Atlanta neighborhood expressed shock and sorrow Friday over the death of a popular grocery store owner gunned down late Thursday night.
The grocer, identified by the Fulton County Medical Examiner's office as 46-year-old Mushtaq Moloo of Decatur, was shot and killed around10 p.m at his store, the ATL Food Mart on Barnett Street, along the southern fringes of the Virginia Highland neighborhood.
Atlanta police have not released a motive for the slaying, but neighbors suspect Moloo, known to everyone as "Mike," was killed during a robbery attempt. Police said he struggled with his killer, and a bloody baseball bat was found nearby.
"He kept [the baseball bat] in the store all the time," said Rita Myers, a longtime customer and close friend of Moloo.
"It was always there," Myers said. "He knew something like that could happen, but he had the bat in case he had to protect himself."
Andrea Bustamante lives right behind the store. She said she and a friend were returning home from the Falcons game and had just parked when, "we heard some screaming and we heard a loud bang."
"We came around the corner and we see someone on the floor and I run towards them," Bustamante said. "All I could see was blood so when I turned toward his body, I could see it was Mike."
"At that point, I kind of got hysterical. I was in the middle of the road, screaming, 'Mike got shot, Mike got shot,'" she said. "My girlfriend, she's a nurse, and she assessed the situation and determined that he was going to require CPR, and did chest compressions on him. We held his hand pretty much until the last breath."
Friday morning, Myers remembered her friend as a hard-worker who came to the United States from Pakistan when he was 18 years old.
"All he cared about was his kids," Myers said. "All he did was work; he worked all the time for those kids. He's got a 7-month-old baby girl that's just the apple of his eye, a 2-year-old whose birthday was just this week, and a 10-year-old."
Myers said Moloo "wanted to raise his family here, wanted to have opportunities for himself and for his kids."
Moloo had recently become a U.S. citizen, she said.
"He knew that becoming a citizen was important to him," Myers said. "He wanted to be able to vote and he voted in the last election."
"He'd give you the shirt off his back, that's the kind of guy Mike was," said David Swank, another close friend of the victim. "Mike was the pillar of this community. Everybody that lived around here loved Mike."
Friends and neighbors stopping by the store Friday morning agreed that the killer must have been a stranger.
"I don't think it was anybody he knew, nobody from the neighborhood because everybody in the neighborhood loved him," Myers said.
"He was a friend to everyone who came into the store," neighbor Karen Field said. "I can't believe that anybody would do this."
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.