HOUSTON – Harris County Sheriff’s deputies were investigating the fatal shooting of a store clerk in north Harris County early Monday.
Neighbors believe gaming machines at the store may have attracted the killer.
Deputies said the clerk and three customers were in the store, located at a Texaco station in the 15300 block of Ella at Airtex, when a suspect walked in around 3:45 a.m.
The customers quickly realized it was a holdup and ran to the back of the store, according to police.
Deputies said the suspect pointed a gun, demanded money, told the clerk not to move, then shot him.
The clerk, later identified as 20-year-old Salvador Maya, was behind the protective glass, but investigators said he was still hit and died at the scene.
A customer, Milady Allen, said Maya had just complained about not making enough money and being tired from working the long shifts.
"He’s just a kid. He had to be in his early 20s. He’s just a baby," Allen said through tears.
Another regular customer who’d been in the store a few hours before the shooting said Maya had confronted a would-be thief with a camera.
"He grabbed something from there, to steal something, and [Maya] took a picture," Eduardo Leyba said.
Leyba said the would-be thieves were angry and had argued with Maya before they left.
Neighbors said the store’s gaming machines have been known to trigger fights.
When asked if real money changed hands, neighbor William Moye said, "It’s not for decoration. It’s there for a reason."
"I always come and play over here, you know, the machine," he said. "We win a thousand, 500, 300, like that."
Others who asked not to be identified said they actually stopped coming to the store for fear of violence linked to gaming money.
Investigators were reviewing the surveillance video Monday, but they said it wasn’t the first time they’ve been called to the gas station.
So far in 2011, deputies said they’ve written 21 offense reports for the Texaco and had four times as many calls for service there.
The shooting suspect was said to be about 6 feet tall, weighed about 200 pounds and was wearing dark clothing and possibly a ski mask.
Investigators said they hope to release surveillance images of the suspect on Tuesday.