Community remembers slain friend

FORESTDALE, AL (WBRC) - By Melanie Posey

FORESTDALE, AL (WBRC) - Cards, notes, and a wreath lie at the service station where a store clerk lost his life.

The Sunday afternoon shooting was at a Jet Pep on Highway 78 in Forestdale.

As of Monday evening, the suspects were still on the loose.

Monday afternoon, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office released surveillance video with hopes it may help the community identify the suspect.  The video shows a thin, black man wearing a Cincinnati Reds baseball cap and long braids entering the store and pointing a gun at the clerk, 25-year-old Don Patel.

"And it looks like the clerk was simply backing away. He was not a threat to this guy," says Jefferson County Chief Deputy Randy Christian.  "He shot him one time and killed him, reached in the cash register and grabbed the money and fled."

Christian says another man was waiting outside in an older model white Chevy Caprice where customers were able to get a description.

"We're counting on someone who knows about this or hears about it through the grapevine to give us a call and track these guys down," Christian added.

Meanwhile, the store remained closed Monday. In front of the entrance, a makeshift memorial swelled throughout the day.  People were leaving flowers, teddy bears, candles, and notes.  Many remember Patel as a very friendly, outgoing guy.

"Every time I come in, no matter how sad I was, he always made me happy," said Jonathan Woods who stopped by to leave two sympathy cards.

Courtney Houston agreed,  "Every time I'd come in, I'd say, 'I need $20.'  He'd say, '$20? You owe me 50.'  I'd say, 'You owe me money.'  Every time I'd see him, he'd have a smile on his face."

Preston Lane arrived Monday morning hoping to buy gas and learning instead that Patel had been killed.  "It's sad when people decide to take from others what's not there," Lane said.  "I can only say that I hope they catch them rather quickly and prosecute them as far as the law will allow."

Officials are looking for two black men in a white, older model Chevy Caprice.  If you have any information about this crime please call authorities at 325-1450.

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