ExxonMobil sued over clerk who locked door in Detroit gas station shooting

ByBill Hutchinson ABCNews logo
Tuesday, May 23, 2023

A man injured in a deadly Detroit gas station shooting has filed a lawsuit against ExxonMobil alleging a clerk locked him and two other patrons in the station's convenience store with the gunman who shot them.

Anthony Bowden's lawsuit accuses the ExxonMobil Corp. and the gas station franchise owner, SMM Investment Inc., of multiple counts of negligence stemming from the shooting in March in which a patron was killed, and he and another customer were wounded.

"Locking three innocent people inside of a building with a person threatening to shoot them over $4 shows a complete disregard for human life over profit," Bowden's attorney, James Harrington of the Fieger Law firm, said in a statement. "This store clerk was obviously trained to lock the door and protect the gas station's assets at all costs."

The ExxonMobil Corp. did not respond to a request from ABC News for comment. Owners of SMM Investment Inc. could not be reached for comment.

The shooting unfolded around 3 a.m. on March 6 at an ExxonMobil gas station in northwest Detroit, where the 60-year-old Bowden stopped while on his way to work to use an ATM machine.

Bowden, according to the lawsuit filed on May 16 in Wayne County Circuit Court, claims he was inside the gas station convenience store and overheard the 22-year-old clerk, Al-Hassan Aiyash, arguing with a customer over his credit card being declined when he attempted to pay for $4 worth of merchandise.

As the argument escalated, the customer, identified by police as 27-year-old Samuel McCray, allegedly threatened to walk out of the store with the unpurchased items, according to the lawsuit. Aiyash, who was in a bullet-proof vestibule, locked the front door with a remote security switch allegedly to prevent McCray from leaving while he called the police, the lawsuit contends.

Bowden further claims that he overheard McCray allegedly telling the clerk, "If you don't let me leave, I'm going to start shooting," according to the lawsuit.

"The gas station employee did not unlock the door and continued to argue with the gunman," the lawsuit contends.

Bowden claims he attempted to escape the store, but could not because the only exit door was locked and the clerk allegedly ignored his screams to unlock the door, the lawsuit alleges.

"The alleged gunman made good on his promise and unleashed rounds of bullets into the innocent customers, killing one, and seriously injuring two others," the lawsuit contends.

The clerk unlocked the door "only after the hail of bullets," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit contends eight minutes elapsed between the time the clerk locked the gas station door, trapping the customers inside with the gunman, and when the door was unlocked.

Killed in the shooting was 37-year-old Gregory Karlos Fortner-Kelly of Detroit, according to the Detroit Police Department. Bowden and another patron were wounded in the incident.

Bowden was shot three times, according to the lawsuit.

McCray fled the gas station store when the door was unlocked and was arrested two days later, according to the Detroit Police Department. He was charged with first-degree murder, two counts of assault with intent to murder and three counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, according to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office. He pleaded not guilty to the charges during his arraignment on May 10.

On Thursday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced that the gas station clerk, Aiyash, was arrested on a charge of felony involuntary manslaughter stemming from the shooting. He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Friday.

"The allegations of the defendant locking the door of the store and not heeding the pleas of the men to be released led to tragic consequences in this case," Worthy said in a statement.

Aiyash's attorney, Jamil Khuja, called the case against his client "a reach."

"He was doing his job," Khuja told the judge at Aiyash's arraignment, according to The Associated Press. "Did he panic and act inappropriately in a way? Maybe, but that's the best they can argue here."

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