Parkland school shooting survivor's father shot and killed at a convenience store, suspect arrested
The father of two sibling survivors of the Parkland school attack was fatally shot during a robbery at his Florida convenience store.
When Elama Ali survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in February, she thought that the worst was over. As the armed teen burst into campus, moving through school corridors and gunning down students and teachers, Elama mustered all her courage and took cover with her brother, eventually making it through the onslaught.
A staggering 17 people lost their lives during the attack, but she was proud to have protected her brother after the 'Valentine's Day massacre' in Parkland, Florida. However, this week, the same violence revisited her family and claimed the life of her father.
Ayub Ali, 61, was shot and killed Tuesday in a robbery at his convenience store.
As thousands of friends and well-wishers came together to bid a final farewell to their friendly, neighborhood food store owner, the man accused in his fatal shooting surrendered to authorities the same day.
Detectives released surveillance footage from the store on Thursday which showed the suspect and the victim engaging in an argument at Aunt Molly’s Food Store, near Southwest 17th Street and South State Road 7. The following day, 19-year-old Tyrone Fields Jr. confessed to the killing after he was taken into custody. According to investigating authorities, Fields robbed 61-year-old Ali, demanding money at gunpoint. After the confrontation, Fields reportedly left the business, but returned and fired at the store owner.
And that's what Ali's wife, Farhana, could not understand. "If you came for the money, take the money and go," she said. "Why did you have to kill my husband?"
The 61-year-old was rushed to Broward Health Medical Center, but was pronounced dead soon after. Well-wishers left candles and flowers as they paid their respects at a memorial set up outside Ali's store. On Saturday morning, neighbor Joaquin Nieves left flowers at the memorial and was emotional when approached by 7News to comment on the assailant's arrest. “God bless. I’m so glad they caught him. Oh, my God,” said Nieves.
Regulars at the store as well as Ali's friends told the station he was very well-liked by all in the neighborhood. He came to the United States from Bangladesh in the late 1990s, and moved to Parkland just last year, reported CNN. "The reason we moved to Parkland was because he liked the school," Elama told CNN on Friday. "I didn't want to move here. But he told us, 'We are only moving because the school is amazing.'"
“Mr. Ali, he was a very nice person. He was in our community, a jolly person,” said friend Arshad Ali. “You can see, as well, how many people came for his funeral.” A prayer service was held at a neighborhood mosque Saturday night in the memory of Ali. It was attended by his family members along with some others from the local Muslim community.
“We all heard the really shocking news,” said Reza Islam, a friend of the victim. “Everybody all over the world, in Bangladesh, they saw that video, and everybody’s upset.” “He was a very friendly man,” said Anis Rahmon, who also attended the service. “Worked with the people, helped people. This happened.” Ali lost his life on the floor of the business he had built from the ground up. He had come to the United States to build a life, said his loved ones.
“He’d bought it 40 years ago, and he was working seven days a week,” said friend Monir Hossain. “He was so hardworking.” Ali, a father of four, was laid to rest on Friday at a Muslim cemetery in West Miami-Dade. He was the sole breadwinner of the family. "My dad would take care of everything in the house, all the bills," Elama said.
“It’s not only our communities, it’s the people around there, and the people who do this kind of business,” said Arshad. “Everybody got nervous.” That said, Ali's loved ones are grateful that justice has been meted out to the murderer. But they are still devastated by the loss. “I feel good now because he needs to [be] punished,” said Kazi Hayder, a friend of Ali. “He’s the bad guy. He killed my owner, and he’s my friend also. Longtime friend.”
However, Ali's family grievingly prepared for his funeral, with one question continuously ringing in the back of their heads: Why did this happen? "We're trying to be strong, but it's overwhelming," Elama said.
According to BSO detectives, they received a number of tips following the release of the surveillance footage. They eventually reached someone who knew Fields, who encouraged the gunman to meet with authorities. Fields was booked with one count of murder and an armed robbery charge after he turned himself in Friday, just after 12:30 p.m., at the Fort Lauderdale Police Station.
Having said that, close relatives and friends of the late store owner are hoping Fields is punished to the fullest extent of the law. He could be facing life imprisonment if convicted for his crimes.