Community mourns shopkeeper Fakhur Uddin, 20, a college student, was minding his father's variety store in East Germantown when he was bound and killed. Young shopkeeper killed in E. Germantown

Posted: August 21, 2008

Yesterday morning, almost exactly seven years to the day that Fakhur Uddin came to America from Bangladesh, he was slain - bound with duct tape and string, shot in the head, and left in the back room of the East Germantown gift and sundry store he was minding for his ailing father.

The 20-year-old accounting student at Community College of Philadelphia had just opened the small, cluttered shop at 5711 Germantown Ave., a busy commercial strip near Chelten Avenue, when he was attacked, police said.

The shooting, homicide Capt. James Clark said, appears to have been the result of a "straight-up" robbery.

Money was taken from a box that was kept in the store, Clark said, but it was unclear whether the robbers had gone through the cash register.

Normally, on a day as warm and bright as yesterday, Uddin would be found standing near the entrance to Rahman Body Oils Beads & Variety Store, selling pastel Croc knockoff shoes and white cotton T-shirts, or taking a cigarette break.

He had worked there since he was a boy, helping his father, Syed Sirazuddiz, who opened the shop about 15 years ago, neighboring merchants said. Sirazuddiz has diabetes and other health problems, so the son had been there a lot lately, the merchants said.

About 11:30 a.m., an hour after Uddin had raised the clanking metal security gate, a nearby shop owner noticed his absence, became worried, and flagged down a police officer.

"She went into the store and found him in the rear storage area with his hands tied behind his back and his feet bound with tape and string, shot once in the head," Lt. Michael Kopecki said.

There were no signs of struggle, and police speculated that the shooter may have had accomplices, because the victim had been bound.

Crowds of onlookers clotted the sidewalks for most of the day, watching as detectives and investigators shuttled in and out, fetched brown paper bags from the back of a Crime Scene Unit van, and interviewed neighboring business owners. As the officers passed through the narrow aisles, they went under a T-shirt hanging from the ceiling that bore Sen. Barack Obama's photo and the caption, "Yes we can."

Outside, in front of a display window that featured a stuffed leopard and a small sign that read "I love Allah," Uddin's friends and a few family members huddled under a black umbrella for relief from the midday sun.

"It's a disgrace," said Thomas Brown, a 45-year-old cook who learned of the shooting as he stepped off the bus on the way to the shop.

"I knew him. He was a Muslim boy. A good dude. Nice as all outdoors. This is a senseless killing," said Brown, a regular customer.

"He had many friends," said Nazim Ahmed, the victim's uncle.

Ahmed, 31, who had helped care for Uddin since he was a baby, said his nephew was energetic and very caring.

A skilled cricket player in Bangladesh, Uddin, a gregarious young man known to friends and family as Apu, had started playing soccer in Philadelphia. Also, he volunteered at the Maitul Mokarram Mosque in North Philadelphia, where he lived with his parents and three younger siblings, Ahmed said.

In the four months since Ahmed moved to Philadelphia, he said, Uddin had helped him find an apartment and a job at Dunkin' Donuts.

"He was important to everyone," he said before breaking down.

Consoling him, friend Alauddin Patway said: "We are a peaceful people. We came here for a better life. That boy came here for a better life. Now his life is destroyed."

Children riding by on bicycles stopped to gawk. Mothers who had been pushing baby carriages along the shady paths in nearby Vernon Park paused, transfixed by the incongruous scene - all the grim trappings of a murder investigation in the midst of a such a cartwheel-and-hopscotch summer day.

"I see God's crying for the brother," said Jerome Murrell, holding hands with his children, Saadiya, 4, and Justin, 5.

Murrell, 42, a disabled maintenance worker from South Philadelphia, said he was surprised that the killing took place in this spot.

"I don't understand. Police usually control this area," Murrell said. "This is a once-in-a-blue-moon thing, I guess."

As he spoke, a large man strode past, cursing and muttering, "You people need to be wearing 'No-Snitch' T-shirts. "

"There is an ongoing conflict about snitching," said Kopecki, but added that he did not believe it would be a problem in this investigation.

Uddin was well-liked in the community, Kopecki said, and there is enough mutual concern among residents and merchants that whatever information they may have will likely come to light.

In the vestibule of a shoe store several doors down, six of Uddin's friends, dressed in button-down shirts and ties, slumped against the walls, crying and comforting one another.

Just before 4 p.m., 4 1/2 hours after Uddin's body was found, a white police van backed up to the store's entrance.

Two police officers held up white sheets to block the view of the body being carried out, while an imam led a prayer, surrounded by men, mostly Bangladeshi friends and relatives, chanting in response.

Among them stood Ahmed, sobbing.

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 215-854-2641 or bboyer@phillynews.com.

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