A clerk at a Shop-N-Go store on N.C. 39 in Johnston County south of Zebulon was shot to death late Thursday and another employee was wounded by two men who robbed the store, the county sheriff's office said.
Sheriff’s office spokeswoman Tammy Amaon said Al Shami Esmail, 29, was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ricky Lynch, 51, was shot, but deputies said his wound did not appear to be life threatening. He was taken to WakeMed Hospital in Raleigh for treatment and was reported to be in fair condition Friday morning.
In this far northern corner of rural Johnston County, the Shop-N-Go is the modern embodiment of the old-fashioned country store. A steady stream of regular customers stopped by the closed store Friday afternoon, mourning Esmail, who everyone called “A.B.,” and swapped stories of kindness.
“He was a great guy. He’d do just about anything for you,” customer Glenn Oakley said. “I’d be out here buying gasoline and cigarettes and be a dollar and a half short, and he’d say, ‘I know you, man, bring it back to me later.’”
Oakley and a companion stopped by the store Thursday night apparently right after the robbery and said he found a grisly scene. He said he first saw Lynch, who had been shot in the hip, and that Esmail was behind the counter shot in the neck.
“You couldn’t know two better guys,” said Oakley, who stayed at the store until the early morning hours Friday.
Esmail, Oakley said, lived next door to the convenience store and was newly married.
Alex Ambriz lives in the neighborhood behind the Shop-N-Go and stopped by Friday afternoon with a Mason jar of roses cut from her garden to put on the store’s front step. She said that her husband had stopped by the store at 10:30 p.m. for gas and talked briefly with Esmail.
A panic alarm triggered on the store’s security system brought authorities there shortly after 11 p.m., Amaon said.
On security video, detectives saw two masked men enter the store and carry out the robbery, Amaon said. They fled in a dark-colored sedan, but that was the only description the sheriff’s office provided.
Esmail and Lynch both lived in western Johnson County, Amaon said.
The sheriff’s office asked anyone who might have any information about the incident to call 919-989-5010.