A deli worker in East Harlem was stabbed to death during a chaotic street brawl with an enraged customer over the price of a cigarette.
A deli worker in East Harlem paid the ultimate price with his life for the cost of a cigarette.
Ahmed Almoliki was working inside the K&B Gourmet Deli when a late-night customer, enraged over the worker's refusal to extend him a 50-cent credit to purchase some cigarettes, fatally stabbed him during a frenzied street fight shortly before midnight Tuesday, according to cops and shocked neighbors.
"I'm guessing he became enraged and stabbed him to death," said a lifetime East Harlem resident and longtime consumer of the restaurant. "It's tragic because I was just speaking to (the victim). I know he was a wonderful person who worked extremely hard."
The altercation spilled out onto the sidewalk outside the business on Second Ave. at E. 102nd St., where the 34-year-old Yemeni immigrant was mortally injured before his knife-wielding assailant fled into the night. The suspect was characterized by cops as a "regular disruptive customer" who was well-known in the neighborhood.
According to a friend, the victim transferred money to his wife, 12-year-old daughter, and father.
After being denied credit, the man threatened to shoot the deli workers, police claimed. He then departed the deli and began pounding on the windows, causing Almoliki and his cousin, Zakaria Hussein, to approach the assassin on the sidewalk.
The Daily News received surveillance video of the lethal incident Wednesday, which showed Almoliki holding a golf club as he pursued the guy down the street, swinging so hard at one point that he flies out of his shoes.
Following one unsuccessful swipe, the killer — dressed in a dark-colored sweatshirt — appears to stab the man in the left side at least twice before fleeing. Almoliki fell after stepping out of camera range, officials claimed. He was gashed on his abdomen and arm.
Hussein, 21, was stabbed in the left eye during the fatal confrontation, police said. He was treated at a nearby hospital and is likely to recover.
Mohamed Alzokari, who is also the murder victim's cousin, informed the family in Yemen of the news.
"It's quite difficult to say anything at the moment," he explained. "It's astonishing. I'm at a loss for words."
According to local residents, the deli, which has been a neighborhood mainstay for two decades, habitually offered loose cigarettes to clients.
"I was about to purchase smokes right now," a surprised 34-year-old neighborhood woman explained Wednesday morning. "People approach him for free food, which he gladly provides. Very kind gentleman who is well-liked. He provided credit to everyone, so I'm not sure why he felt the need to do that for an extra $2."
Police officers responding to a complaint of a robbery in progress saw Almoliki bleeding outside the deli and rushed him to New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospital, where he died, cops said.
"These men work seven days a week," a neighboring woman claimed of the bodega employees. "They don't take vacations, they don't take holidays."
Several hours after the fatal attack, Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams and Republican challenger Curtis Sliwa arrived on the site.
"This country unquestionably believes in the American dream," Adams said, announcing a $1,000 personal award. "Today, we acknowledge the demise of that dream, which devolved into a nightmare."
Sliwa urged for a crackdown on illicit "loosies" sales around the city, adding that police chokehold victim Eric Garner was nabbed for peddling loose cigarettes.
"A dumb cigarette is responsible for this Yemeni immigrant's death," Sliwa stated. "It is unmistakably a statement about New York City in the de Blasio era in 2021. Life is worthless. That someone would get into an altercation over a loosie and... murder you."
Sliwa did not match Adams' award, but members of the City Council Robert Rodriguez and Diana Ayala each contributed $1,000, as did the Bodega Association of America and the Yemeni Merchants Association, bringing the total to $5,000.
Cops released a surveillance image of the suspect on Wednesday afternoon and begged for the public's assistance in apprehending the fugitive. Police characterized the suspect as a heavyset light-skinned male between the ages of 30 and 40, weighing between 180 and 190 pounds.
Anyone with information about this incident is invited to contact Crime Stoppers at (800) 577-TIPS. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Majid Mohammad, the building's landlord who also runs an adjacent drugstore, said there were frequently issues at the deli.
"Every day, the cops were here," he explained. "Unfortunately, they sell loose cigarettes to children with no enforcement. We are not taken aback. We've been here for such a long time."
However, deli regular Luiz Tejada was taken aback when he arrived for his normal 6 a.m. coffee to see the grating ripped down and news of the stabbing spreading.
"I've known him for a long time," said Tejeda, who has been a daily customer for the previous seven years. "These occurrences are not supposed to occur. The populace has gone insane."