A would-be robber and a clerk who tried to stop the hold-up fatally shot each other inside a South Shore neighborhood grocery store Friday night, police said.
The shooting began shortly after 6:20 p.m. when Nicholas Williams walked into the El Baraka supermarket near 73rd Street and Coles Avenue and displayed a handgun, according to Chicago Police and the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Williams, 24, shot 63-year-old Ali Hasan in the chest and back, authorities said.
Hassan, who was carrying the gun’s owner’s identification card, pulled the gun from his waistband and fired back, hitting Williams in the chest.
The man, who lived in the neighborhood, ran from the store but collapsed and died a block away, authorities said.
Hassan, a Palestinian immigrant who lived in Berwyn, was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center. He died there within an hour, authorities said.
Investigators recovered three guns at the scene — Hassan’s and Williams’ and another behind the counter.
Police initially said an unarmed bystander was injured in the shooting, but later corrected their account. Another witness was inside the store and was not injured, police said Saturday.
Hassan’s sister-in-law, who answered the door at the home in Berwyn, said Hassan left behind five children between the ages of 10 and 22. She and other relatives declined to speak further to a reporter Saturday afternoon.
Another person who knew Hassan described him as “a family man who made endless sacrifices and one of the kindest people you could ever meet”. The man, who did not want to be identified, said Hassan was the one who took care of his parents until they died.
A supermarket on the ground floor of an apartment building was closed in the morning after the shooting.
A man who has lived in the building for 40 years said he quickly became a regular when the store opened nearly 30 years ago. He said he would drink coffee most mornings and have a quick chat with Hassan before work, then return in his pajamas for a snack some nights.
The man, who did not want to be identified, said he was in the store moments before the attempted robbery. He said he heard the gunshots when he got off the elevator on his floor.
“I said [Hasan] I will see him tomorrow,” he said.
The man said Hasan had returned from visiting family on an overseas holiday, though he was present at the shop through video calls while other family members were working at the shop.
“They are good people. They do not cause any problem. He was a real cool guy,” he said. “He didn’t have that coming. He didn’t deserve to leave here like that.
In addition to the tragic loss of Hasan’s life, the man said he was concerned about the store’s future in an area without many options for groceries.
“That’s our little neighborhood grocery store,” he said. “Once they’re closed, how far do we have to go to get the supplies?”
Another person who lives in the 7200 block of South Coles Avenue, where Williams crashed, said the neighborhood is generally “quiet” and full of “working people.”
“There’s a lot of riffraff here, but nothing on this block,” said the man, who did not want to share his name.
Detectives were still investigating Saturday.