Yemeni grocery store owner attacked in possible bias crime in Brooklyn

Tuesday, April 18, 2023
Yemeni grocery store owner attacked in possible bias crime
Bodega owner Jamal Sawaid says men burst into his Coney Island, Brooklyn store and attacked him in what is being investigated as a hate crime. NJ Burkett has the story.

CONEY ISLAND, Brooklyn (WABC) -- A community gathered Monday night in Coney Island, Brooklyn, to show support for a bodega owner who was brutally beaten on Saturday, in what is now being investigated as a possible hate crime.

Jamal Sawaid knows he could have been killed. He was working behind the counter at his tiny grocery store on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island when he was attacked. The store surveillance video is chilling.

While one man attacks Sawaid's employee, the other man bolts the counter and brutalizes Sawaid with a metal rod, pounding his head and his face over and over again. Sawaid believes the attack was racially motivated.

"He hit me with a stick. More than one, more than three, more than four, more than five," Sawaid said. "I never see them before. I don't have no problem with nobody. No problem with anyone in the community."

He says no other motive makes sense. The men burst into the store and attacked him mercilessly, while shouting vulgar, anti-Arab slurs.

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"I have to find out what's the problem," he said. "Why they come to my place and they just struck my head? And they hit me only in the head, in my head, in my head. They want to kill me. For what reason?"

The NYPD put out surveillance video Monday night of a group of individuals, believed to be the suspects, fleeing the scene. Authorities say they fled in a white pickup truck in an unknown direction.

Outside the store, activists and elected officials rallied to support Sawaid, urging the community to help identify the suspects.

"We have to get the message out that if you mess with one of us, you mess with all of us," former New York State assemblymember Mathylde Frontus said. "And I'm asking law enforcement to please find these people."

It happened on Saturday night and NYPD detectives are investigating the case as a possible bias crime. Ahmed Mohamed is with the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

"These were not criminals who were here to rob the store or steal from the store," he said. "They didn't do any of that. What they did was yell some racial slurs at him, and then beat him violently."

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Sawaid is an immigrant from Yemen, who has owned the store for more than 20 years. He works seven days a week to support his family.

Time off to recover or to protect himself is not an option.

"I'm afraid, but I have to do what I have to do," Sawaid said.


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