CINCINNATI - The man who the Hamilton County Grand Jury declined to indict in the fatal shooting of a 22-year-old man earlier this month in Pleasant Ridge said Tuesday it hurts to know he took Omar Magdy Abouelalla’s life.
The store manager of LM&N Unlimited Supermarket, who spoke to WCPO Digital on the condition of anonymity for his safety and out of respect for Abouelalla's family, said he has had many sleepless nights since the Aug. 4 shooting at the grocery store.
“I have a family, too, and I ask for forgiveness,” he said, while his eyes wallowed. “I ask about [Abouelalla’s] family whenever I can. There’s not a second that I don’t think about Omar. I really like him.”
Abouelalla, 22, of Mason, might have been playing a prank on the store manager who shot him, although police said there was no indication that was the case.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Abouelalla and the store manager, 34, who started his job on July 9, were acquainted but police do not know how close the two were. The store manager said he only met Abouelalla three times before the shooting, as Abouelalla was a salesman for a wholesale cigarette company, he said.
He would stop in the store on weekly basis for cigarette orders, and at the time of the shooting, the store manager said Abouelalla had already paid a visit a few days earlier and wasn’t due back for a few more.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and interim Police Chief Paul Humphries announced Tuesday that charges would not be filed against the store clerk involved in the shooting death of Abouelalla.
Authorities outlined the circumstances surrounding Abouelalla's death and released surveillance video of the incident Tuesday. Abouelalla entered the store and walked calmly toward the employee-only area behind the elevated counter, despite being told not to by the store manager, Deters said Tuesday.
The store manager, who was breaking his fast in observance of the Muslim Holy Month of Ramadan, said he stood up off his stool and told Abouelalla to remove his helmet when he entered the store at approximately 8:45 p.m.
“He didn’t say one word, from beginning to the end,” the store manager said. “It hurts me to know every night that he did not respond to me.”
A Cincinnati police reenactment of the incident displayed Tuesday showed, from the manager’s point of view, he was only able to see Abouelalla’s helmet, but not his hands or the rest of his body. The store manager confirmed the police reenactment.
“I have no exit behind me, and he could’ve shot one bullet and I would be dead,” the manager said.
It was then the store clerk shot Abouelalla in the chest. He was unarmed. After Abouelalla stumbled back and then collapsed in front on the counter, the store manager approached him, lifted his visor and recognized him.
“I initially did not recognize him and then when I got closer, I said to myself, ‘I’ve seen this face somewhere before,’” the store manager said.
The investigation found that coworkers said Abouelalla liked to play jokes on people, and perhaps, we was playing a prank at the time of the shooting.
Abouelalla face was “totally obscured by his helmet and visor,” the investigation found. Karen Dabdoub, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Abouelalla’s visor was clear. Abouelalla used to work for a wholesaler and delivered cigarettes to the store in past, Dabdoub and police said.
“He was the light of the family,” Dabdoub said.
The clerk and Abouelalla were the only two people in the store at the time of the shooting. The Hamilton County coroner released a preliminary report indicating Abouelalla died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest.
“Our homicide unit did an exhaustive job in following every lead,” Humphries said. “There was speculation and rumors and the detectives went above and beyond to find any lead in this and to determine what the facts were to the prosecutor’s office.
“We’ve been unable to substantiate any of the rumors or the speculation.”
Hamilton County court records show Abouelalla has no criminal record other than a 2010 speeding ticket on Interstate 71.
The Hamilton County Grand Jury heard all of the available evidence, including testimony by the unidentified store clerk, as well as the law on self-defense in Ohio, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Deters stated the prosecutor's office determined the clerk was not at fault in creating the situation, that he did not violate his duty to retreat, and that there was reasonable fear for serious bodily harm in the situation, in accordance with Ohio law on self-defense.
Deters said the store clerk involved in the shooting had been robbed at gunpoint several times and the store had been burglarized the week before the shooting by someone wearing a mask.
“If the police or people in the community come up with any information, we can still present this [to the grand jury] for up to six years, if there is something that comes forward to indicate this was not self-defense, we’ll take it over to the grand jury,” Deters said. “As it stands today, there is nothing to suggest it was anything but self-defense.”
The surveillance video did not record sound, but investigators believe there were no words exchanged between Abouelalla and the store clerk, other than the clerk’s repeated demands that Abouelalla not to come behind the counter.
When asked what Abouelalla said during the incident, Deters said, “After he lowered his visor, he walked back around the corner and the only one who knows, because there’s no sound, is the store clerk.”
Authorities said the clerk has been fully cooperative in the investigation.
In a prepared statement earlier this month, Abouelalla's family said "We are devastated by the recent loss of our beloved Omar, whose life was tragically and suddenly cut short on August 4th. Omar was a vibrant, caring and joyful young man who always jumped at the opportunity to help others. He was a dutiful son, a loving brother and a loyal friend.
“... We hope that the Cincinnati Police Department will thoroughly investigate the facts and circumstances leading to Omar's death and we trust that the Hamilton County Prosecutor will file the appropriate charges against the perpetrator and bring us justice."
WCPO.com will update this story as more information becomes available.
* Warning Graphic Content: The below surveillance video contains graphic content that shows a person being fatally shot. Because of the controversial nature of this case, a portion of the surveillance video is posted here for the public's review.