Indian student killed in Alabama store robbery attempt

Neil Kumar
Neil Kumar; Photo credit: Brundidge Police Department

Neil Kumar, 30, was killed in Brundidge, AL; he was a student of Troy University.

An Indian student working part time at a convenience store in Alabama was shot dead last week in an apparent robbery attempt, leaving behind another trail of unsafe conditions prevalent at isolated stores, where international students take up part time jobs to pursue their higher studies.

Neil Purush Kumar, 30, was killed by an armed man dressed in all black, at the J&S Buy Rite Convenient Store in Brundidge, a town of 2,000 people in southeastern Alabama, on Wednesday.

A manhunt is on for the suspect.

ALSO READ: Why are Indian American convenience store workers easy targets? Is not owning guns a factor? (May 10, 2019)

Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said the suspect entered the store as soon as the store opened “around 6 am, on Wednesday morning, “went behind the register” and “demanded money.” He opened fire and killed Kumar almost immediately.

Kumar, 30, came to the United States from Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, last year to pursue a master’s degree in computer science at Troy University.

His classmate, a Malaysian, told the Dubai-based Gulf News that the victim was not supposed to go for duty on Wednesday but “he filled in for someone else. It was his pure bad luck. He didn’t deserve such a tragic end. We are all heartbroken.”

The funeral will be held Monday afternoon.

ALSO READ: Vikram Jaryal fifth Indian American, or Indian killed in US convenience store robberies in 2 years (April 8, 2017)

After completing high school from the Sharjah Indian School, Kumar earned an undergraduate degree from Chennai, India. He worked at a Dubai studio for about five years before coming to the United States.

Kumar was the youngest child of Purush Kumar and Seema, long-time UAE residents. His older sisters Neema and Nastasha live in the US.

Purush Kumar, a native of Trissur in Kerala, lived in the UAE for the last 52 years and was planning to return to India once his son settled down in life, said Ramanan Vengali, a relative of Kumars, told the Gulf News.

The killing of Kumar has brought back fears among Indian nationals and Indian Americans working in convenience stores and gas stations, which are easy targets for criminals and robbers.

ALSO READ: Two Indian Americans murdered in separate incidents in California (August 2, 2017)

According to the 2019 NACS/Nielsen Convenience Industry Store Count, there are 153,237 convenience stores operating in the United States, selling fuel, food and merchandise.

Vipul Patel, chairman and founder of Asian American Store Owners Association (AASOA), told the American Bazaar in May that it could be because most Indian Americans don’t keep guns. “Even though I haven’t studied the statistics for that could be that most robbers know that often Indians do not keep guns with them,” Patel said. “Among white or Chinese store owners, it is more likely that you would find them with a gun in their business. Robbers may take advantage of this fact, too.”

Even unpreparedness may be a contributing factor, said Parmesh Bheemreddy, president of the American Telugu Association. In their entrepreneurial zeal, many of these shops are opened in deserted places or they are kept open in odd hours too. “We have often seen Indian store owners opening shops in far-flung smaller places which are deserted,” he said. “The reasons are that the property rates in such areas are low. And also with no other stores nearby, the business is better. But in doing so, they are risking their security.”

“While we know that businesses such as convenience stores, liquor stores, hotels or motels are risky propositions but still one needs to take into parameter situation and location,” AASOA founder Patel said. “Most robbers do a store recce before planning to loot,” he said. “There have been cases where we have seen the clerks not paying attention to repeat customers and look for any suspicious signs.”

Patel said, “Having security, alarm and camera as well as bullet proof glass windows are other musts in a store.”


Indian American storekeeper shot during armed robbery in Ohio dead (December 14, 2017)

Indian American Sikh store clerk shot dead during armed robbery in Mississippi (November 29, 2017)

Indian student Dharmapreet Singh Jasser shot dead at a grocery store near Madera in California (November 16, 2017)

Sikh owner of a liquor store in Downey, California, shot dead

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