Amer Mahmood, 48, asked his wife to send his body back to his family in Pakistan if anything ever happened to him.
Mahmood’s wife, Carolyn White, had to remember that promise after Mahmood was killed in a convenience store robbery on July 4.
“He worked hard for his family and had strong moral character,” White said on Facebook after sending Mahmood’s body overseas. “I’m sure he never imagined leaving the U.S., certainly not in these circumstances. Although it was tragic and we feel unspeakable loss over his passing, there is some peace knowing his journey is almost over.”
Mahmood, an American citizen who had lived in the U.S. for over 20 years, was shot and killed during a robbery at the Joy Food Mart on North Roxboro Street where he worked. Dmarlo Johnson, 26, of Durham, is being held without bond on a murder charge.
Over 70 people have donated money in a GoFundMe account to support Mahmood’s family, raising $3,670 as of Thursday. These donations helped White follow through with her promise.
Her aunt, Barbra White, who opened the account, said she set up the page to cover funeral expenses, travel expenses for his wife and children and for his wife to attend the murder trial.
“I set this account up to benefit their family because she would never have asked anyone for financial assistance,” White said in a post on the page.
Carolyn White lives in New York, and their two children, Avery, 10, and Jordan, 13, were living in Arizona with their aunt before recently joining their mother.
The couple were working in separate states until they were able to bring their family to live permanently in either Durham or New York.
Though Barbra White, an Arizona resident, never met Mahmood, she said her niece described him as “her rock.”
“He was one of those guys that you could depend on for anything,” she said. “She’s devastated. She had to tell her children over the phone.”
In a Facebook post, Carolyn White spoke about her children’s reaction to the news.
“My heart is overflowing with love for them,” she said. “My little one is unable to talk about her dad just yet. My son is sad but he opens up dialogue, and sometimes he’s comforting me as I cry. I’ll just keep going at their pace.”
Debra Hawkins, the president of the Northgate Park Neighborhood Association, the neighborhood where the convenience store is located, said the community is devastated by Mahmood’s death. Hawkins said she shops at the Joy Food Mart regularly.
“We’re horribly shocked and dismayed, is the general response,” Hawkins said. “(There’s) a sense of frustration and of wanting to do something to address the situation.”
Hawkins said the neighborhood took up a collection in Mahmood’s honor at the last neighborhood association board meeting. Many residents also donated through Mahmood’s GoFundMe account.
“We’re a very tight-knit, I would say, community that really cares about its residents and the people who come here to work,” Hawkins said.
He was one of those guys that you could depend on for anything.
Durham police determined the course of events in the shooting and robbery in a report released July 8.
Police investigators determined that Johnson drove up to the store and entered with his shirt covering part of his face and holding a gun.
Johnson then pointed the gun at Mahmood and demanded money. Mahmood took cash out of the register, put it on the counter and raised his hands in the air.
Even though Mahmood complied, police said Johnson walked around the counter and shot him twice.
Police said Johnson then took the cash and cigarettes to his car. He returned to the store, took more cigarettes and shot Mahmood again.
As Johnson left the store for the second time, two police officers confronted him in the parking lot, Officers Cornell Richards and Joshua Conser. Officer Jonathan Fullam arrived soon after.
Johnson pointed his gun and fired shots at the officers, according to the report. The officers returned fire.
Johnson tried to run and Fullam shot him. Johnson suffered gunshot wounds to his collarbone, knee and foot as well as a graze wound to his arm. He was taken to the hospital, and is being held on a murder charge.
The officers have been assigned to administrative duties pending investigation of the shooting, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings.
Clarence Trice, 62, a regular at the store, said he knew both Mahmood and Johnson. Trice said that Johnson also came to the store regularly.
“I was surprised,” Trice said. “(Johnson) seemed like a nice guy.”
Trice said that Mahmood worked at the store almost every night to provide for his family.
“It didn’t make any sense what happened to him,” he said.
Trice said that about a week and a half before the shooting, Mahmood told him that he and Johnson had a fight.
Trice said Mahmood said he caught Johnson stealing cigars and told him not to come back to the store again.
Johnson has a previous criminal record for drug charges.
How to help