AUBURN, Wash. – A gas station clerk who suffered a heart attack and then was robbed by two teenage suspects is clinging to life at a Washington state hospital, his co-workers said Tuesday.
Video surveillance shows 34-year-old Zarif Kelada collapse after telling two teens that they needed to pay for pepperoni sticks they opened and were eating in the store. But instead of calling for help for the collapsed man, the teens nearly walk by while he’s unconscious on the floor, steal merchandise and the cash out of the register.
Wednesday is Kelada's 35th birthday, according to co-workers. They told KCPQ his wife doesn’t work and he’s the breadwinner for her and their three children. They now hope police can bring the suspects to justice and make them pay for what they didn’t do – call for help.
“I couldn’t watch it the first time,” said co-worker Angela Sharapova. “I had to stop and walk away. It totally broke my heart.”
Auburn police released the surveillance video on social media. The incident happened at about 5:40 p.m. Saturday at the Shell station on Auburn Way South, when a man and two teenagers walk into the store.
The video shows one of the teenagers grab a pepperoni stick and begin eating it soon after walking in, then grabbing another and giving it to the other teen. The man then comes to the counter to buy something, and it appears the clerk then charges him for the pepperoni sticks.
An argument breaks out, and one of the teenagers hands the clerk a dollar. The clerk gets upset, talks to the teenagers, then turns around and stumbles into a display before collapsing to the floor. Investigators say the adult man was not involved in the incident.
What happens next is mind-boggling for detectives.
“They (each teen) jump over the counter and they take all the money out of the drawer, steal more merchandise and they leave,” said Commander Steve Stocker with Auburn Police.
Investigators say they have identified who these suspects are, though they are not yet in custody.
Police say several minutes pass before a bystander enters the store and calls 911 when they find Kelada on the floor. It’s those precious minutes that the clerk’s co-workers believe could have been used to call paramedics and give him the best chance to survive.
“I didn’t think that anybody would be able to do that to begin with,” said Sharapova.
The clerk’s co-workers are now praying he will make a full recovery. They’re also raising money online to help his family pay their medical bills.
They are all left wondering how anyone could ignore someone in obvious need of help.
“This is not something you see very often,” said Stocker. “It really shocks people and makes people wonder when people can be this cold to other people.”
Kelada was listed in critical condition Tuesday at Multicare Auburn Medical Center.