Surveillance footage of the two suspects in the fatal shooting Wednesday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts store on Schaefer. Detroit Police Department.


Detroit — Police Chief James Craig on Thursday laid out the harsh facts of a robbery the night before at an O’Reilly Auto Parts store that in an instant turned into a slaying, a death that shook the city, including authorities, for its cold-blooded viciousness.

The victim’s wife stood beside Craig, crying, outside the west-side auto store on Schaefer.

“You didn’t have to shoot him,” said Patricia Haller.

James Haller Jr., 75, was shot down as he walked up at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to two females robbing the store. Suddenly, as the robbers were about to leave, money in hand, the scene took a deadly turn. Haller, the store manager, was shot in the head.

“We’re close,” Craig said warning the suspects at the news conference to seek tips and announce a reward. “Not only are we going to find you, we are going to arrest you.”

Patricia Haller had a more urgent warning: “You better turn yourself in. If the police don’t get you, then God will.”

Craig announced a $12,500 cash reward for information leading to arrests. Local O’Reilly officials offered $10,000 and Crime Stoppers $2,500.

“He was a hero and a member of our family, not only because he’s a veteran of Vietnam, but also served our city as a Detroit police reserve (officer) in the late 70s,” Craig said.

Jaime Haller-Sharpe, Haller’s daughter, called her father’s death senseless.

“There was no reason to shoot him,” Haller-Sharpe said. The money the robbers had sought already had been handed over, she said.

She said her father was a General Motors retiree. He loved being around and working on cars. Ford Mustangs were his favorite, she said.

Haller was known in his neighborhood as “Big Diego.” He’d been called “Diego” for years until his son, James III, was born decades ago, at which point he was upgraded.

He worked in retirement because he wouldn’t have it any other way, she said.

“That’s just who my Dad was. He didn’t sit down; he couldn’t sit down,” Haller-Sharpe said. “He said he’d work until he didn’t have breath in his body.”

He was a protective figure, she said, a man who despite his age, “looked out for everybody.”

After the shooting, Haller was rushed to Sinai-Grace Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A 20-year-old witness was not injured.

The suspect accused of firing at Haller was described as a thin African-American woman, about 5-foot-8-inches tall, with a dark complexion, long curly hair. She was last seen wearing red or burgundy pants, a white top, and a jacket with designs.

Her companion was described as a short, heavy-set black woman of an unknown age, last seen wearing a black jacket with fur around the collar and dark pants.

Anyone with information on the suspects or the incident is asked to call the Detroit Police Department at (313) 596-2260.

“What they took away was irreplaceable,” said his son, James Haller III, on Thursday.

Detroit News staff writer James David Dickson and Mark Hicks contributed.

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