Hell's Kitchen smoke shop worker shot when at least 5 men tried to rob store: Police

"It's not safe no more to be out here," the store owner told Eyewitness News.

Thursday, January 19, 2023
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HELL'S KITCHEN (WABC) -- Police are investigating a shooting that happened early Wednesday morning at a smoke shop in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.

Officials say at least five men tried to rob Smoke City, located on 9th Avenue between 48th and 49th streets, just after midnight.

A worker inside the shop tried to kick out the group, and the dispute spilled out onto the street.

One of the men pulled out a gun and shot the worker in the leg, police said. Some of the suspects in the group got away on scooters.

The 32-year-old employee who was shot was transported to Bellevue Hospital. He was alert as officials lifted his stretcher into the ambulance.

"He's very good now," said the store's owner, Ali Alnor, hours after the shooting. "He was at the hospital last night, and he just came out in the morning. Now he's in a lot of pain, so he went back to the hospital."

Police say they are reviewing the security cameras right outside the store to see if they recorded the incident.

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The recent explosion in the number of unlicensed smoke shops across New York City has drawn the attention of city lawmakers. N.J. Burkett has the story.

For his part, Alnor is wondering if it's worth it to stay in business.

"It's not safe no more to be out here," he told Eyewitness News.

In fact, the shooting is the latest in a recent string of violent smoke shop encounters.

Earlier this month, a similar situation took place on the Lower East Side, when another smoke shop worker was shot in the back during an attempted robbery.

Many of these stores are selling marijuana without a license - which is against the law - with few consequences.

And enforcement has been so lax, even Alnor admits it.

At least one Hell's Kitchen resident told Eyewitness News he wants Smoke City shut down.

"There's usually a lot of people outside, a lot of loiterers outside waiting or smoking the weed or rolling up the weed right in front of the smoke shop," said Fabiola Augustine. "And the fact that we have three to four smoke shops... the type of people they attract... is something that needs to be discussed."

And in fact, a city council joint committee oversight hearing on that very topic took place Wednesday.


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