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Scared Norwalk Clerk Thought Fast

Naizer Muhamed formulated a plan as he was sitting in the back of a car with a gun to his head early Tuesday. The people who had robbed him — people he knew — wanted the keys to the Norwalk store he worked at, the one they had kidnapped him from. Muhamed said he finagled the key to the store off the key ring and hid it in his sneaker.

He had tried to jump out of the car, but the doors were locked. Silently, he was praying, "God, please protect me, save me. I didn't do anything bad."

Muhamed, manager of the Citgo at Fitch Street and East Avenue, usually deals with customers through a window during the night hours. But he had gone outside after midnight to use the restroom. He walked across the parking lot to have a conversation with a man in a dark sedan. Mohammed had been talking earlier with the man — a steady customer. But two people pulled him inside the car, which was running.

A young woman had the pistol at his head, he said. She allegedly demanded the contents of his pockets. Muhamed says it important to note that the guy who was sitting next to him got everything out of his right pocket, but not his left pocket, because he had to reach across to get into it. Still, they allegedly took $300 and his credit cards. Muhamed's cell phone was still in the gas station, so they didn't get that.

Then they wanted his keys. He handed over the key ring. They went back to the store, but Mohammed had a customer at the window. Another person wanted gas. His assailants tried to pretend all was normal, giving him back his keys. They all walked over to the pumps, but Mohammed decided to slow down a bit. "I thought this was a good time to escape," he said.

When the gap between them was four or five feet, he ran across East Avenue. There were cars. "I was yelling, 'Help me!' Nobody stopped," Muhamed said.

He wanted to phone police, but his cell was in the store. Muhamed said he kept running, staying off the road because he was afraid they would come back with the car. He hid. Then he doubled back, and ran to where he lived. Muhamed said it took about 15 to 20 minutes. His uncle and a friend were surprised to see him.

Norwalk police already knew something was wrong. Another of Muhamed's steady customers had called police. "All of the customers are really friends with me," said Mohammed, who has worked there for 2½ years. He is 26 years old and from Sri Lanka.

Police arrested Darin Mann, 40, of 200 Reef Road, Fairfield, later Tuesday morning. Muhamed said those who got away used his credit cards, which helped police track them down. Police also arrested Alverto Ortega Garcia, 19, of Woodward Avenue, Norwalk; and Amber Greco, 18, of Muffin Avenue, Norwalk. Still at large as a suspect is Destiny Roundtree, 18, of Norwalk.

The store was closed for two days, but Muhamed is back at work now. His former roommate was there Wednesday night, keeping him company and helping him to feel safe. Still, Muhamed would rather not be there. But he is the manager and no one else wants to do it. "What can I do?" he said.

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