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Recent holdup at store on Buffalo’s East Side leads manager to thwart another one

A gunman wearing a green mask sprinted from Genesee Grocery & Deli less than a month ago with $3,000 cash and a couple of cartons of cigarettes.

Store manager Abdulnaser M. Saleh, 22, was determined not to let it happen again.

The day after the robbery, Saleh installed bulletproof glass around the checkout counter, and he bought a 12-gauge shotgun to protect himself.

So when a man in the same green mask again flashed his pistol Sunday morning in the corner store at 1522 Genesee St., Saleh was prepared.

“He had the same clothes, the same mask and the same gun,” said Saleh, who also was behind the counter during the previous robbery Oct. 1. “He stuck his hand inside the bulletproof glass and demanded the money.”

As the would-be robber pointed the pistol, Saleh grabbed his shotgun and loaded it.

The startled man ran away.

He was in such a hurry that he tried to push open the store’s exit, which requires a pull.

“He slammed into the door and almost knocked himself out,” said Saleh, who didn’t fire his weapon and is grateful that he didn’t need to.

“I’m not here to injure anybody. I’m here to run a business. I’m here to protect my employees,” he said.

The incident was another reminder of how dangerous it can be to operate a convenience store in the city.

Saleh’s great-uncle, Karim Kaid, who first opened the East Side deli nearly 30 years ago, was fatally shot inside the store in 1997, when Saleh was just a little boy.

“It was horrible, horrible,” Saleh said.

The store was previously known as Karim’s Superette. According to reports in The Buffalo News, Kaid tried to fight off the assailant, Dion Gray, who shot a store clerk before firing the fatal bullet into Kaid’s head. Gray was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The details of his great-uncle’s death are fuzzy for Saleh. But knowing the fatal shooting happened in the same deli where Saleh now works gave him pause as the masked man waved the silver pistol.

“I had a quick flashback. It happened so fast. I really did feel my life was in jeopardy,” he said. “He could have shot me.”

Kaid was one of three deli workers killed in robbery attacks in 1998 – and corner stores are still regularly targeted for armed holdups.

Saleh’s uncle now owns Genesee Grocery & Deli, which employs other family members, as well. They continue to operate the store despite the risks.

After Karim Kaid’s death, the store didn’t have any other robberies until this month, Saleh said.

Plexiglass enclosures are becoming common in convenience stores, but the operators of Genesee Grocery & Deli had resisted because they have a long-standing presence in the neighborhood and didn’t want to alienate their customers.

The glass has had an impact on some patrons, acknowledged Saleh.

“Some customers kind of feel like they’re in the wrong place. It doesn’t seem like a friendly place,” he said. “But you have to take precautions.”

Buffalo police are investigating.