It was 10 minutes until close and, after a long, busy day, Zouhaier Marzougui was ready to go home.
When a last-minute customer came into the store at 11:50 p.m. with a hood over his head, Mr. Marzougui didn’t even have the energy to tell him that wasn’t allowed. The man grabbed some candy, went to the counter, and asked the store manager for a Black & Mild cigar. When Mr. Marzougui turned around, he saw a gun pointed toward his head.
“Give me the [expletive] money or I’ll shoot,” the man told Mr. Marzougi, 40. “I told him to calm down. ‘What you want, I’ll give it to you, but don’t hurt me.’”
There have been 12 carryout robberies in Toledo since May 1, including the holdup on Tuesday at Eastgate Carry Out, 1853 Eastgate Rd., where Mr. Marzougui has worked for two years.
Police have said six of the incidents are related, but have not commented on whether any others are linked.
“I don’t think they are able to make the connection just yet,” said police Sgt. Kevin Braun.
Most of the robberies have been in South Toledo, and at the hands of two suspects who have become more brazen and violent since the first robbery on May 5. On Sunday, the clerk at Cigarette Outlet, 2620 Airport Hwy., was beaten by a suspect while the assailant simultaneously demanded cash.
In nearly every robbery, the suspects have been masked. They are always armed with handguns.
Police have not released descriptions of the suspects, nor images from surveillance video.
Of all the robberies, 10 were in South Toledo and the old south end, one on Lagrange Street in the north end, and another at East Side Sunoco on Oak Street.
“I can say that these, over the last few weeks, it’s become a top priority of the department, and detectives are working day and night to bring it to a conclusion and make an arrest,” Sergeant Braun said.
During the robbery on Tuesday, the suspect wore gloves and what appeared to be a doo-rag on his face, Mr. Marzougui said.
The suspect wore a gray hooded sweatshirt and black sweatpants.
After getting thousands of dollars in cash, the robber ordered Mr. Marzougui to the floor, forcing him onto his knees. The suspect then fled on foot.
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Mr. Marzougui, who was back at work on Wednesday, has worked in carryout stores for many years. Tuesday was the second time he was the victim of an armed robbery. The first time, about 12 years ago, he was working at a carryout at Erie and Bush streets in North Toledo. Younger and feeling invincible, Mr. Marzougui tried to say no. Those robbers hit him with a gun and broke his jaw.
“Most people come to rob for what? Money. Give them the money; don’t be acting stupid,” he said.
That — complying with a robber — is what police suggest.
“It’s money and it’s not worth a life, so we always encourage somebody if they’re robbed to just do what you’re told,” Sergeant Braun said. “Your safety is number one.”
Nadil Yassine, who has owned Eastgate Carry Out since 2009, said he plans to increase protection at the store and is looking into installing safety glass at the counter.
Police ask that anyone with information about the robberies call Crime Stoppers at 419-255-1111.