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Clinton Twp. store owner death mirrors slaying year ago

Tom Greenwood and Ursula Watson
The Detroit News

Clinton Township — The death of Emil Salem is an eerie and tragic marker of the nearly one-year anniversary of another area business owner who was also shot and killed during a robbery.

Salem, 50, owner of Bernie’s Market, was killed during a robbery late Thursday night, after wounding the robber during an exchange of gunfire.

Basim Sulaka, another Clinton Township party store owner, was fatally shot on March 28, 2014. Sulaka was slain at the Moon Lite Party Store on Harper Avenue after robbers emptied the store’s cash registers. Four men were arrested and have been charged in his death.

“Both were immigrants, who came to this country to work hard and they were just nice guys,” said township Supervisor Robert Cannon, who was visibly shaken as he stood outside of Salem’s business Friday. “They were fulfilling the American Dream.”

Yellow tape put up by police, who were inside the store gathering evidence, was placed in front of the door.

Customers stopped by, placing flowers on a makeshift memorial, where a sign read: “Thank you for your loyalty and friendship. You may be gone but never forgotten.”

Outside the store was a trail of blood that snaked in front of neighboring businesses and ended at Eleanor Street.

Shortly before midnight, officers from the Clinton Township Police Department responded to a hold-up alarm at Bernie’s Market in the 39900 block of Garfield near 171/2 Mile.

When they arrived, officers found the store owner had died after getting into a shootout with a robber. Police have not officially released the name of the victim but records list the owner as Emil Salem, who recently turned 50.

Anton Mansour and his parents own the Papa Romano’s Pizza/Mr. Pita next to Salem’s store.

“Emil was like a second father to me,” said Mansour, 19. “My family has owned this store for six years and he would check up on me every night.”

The teen said he left his family’s store around 10:40 p.m. Thursday.

“By the time I got home it had already happened,” Mansour said. “It is unbelievable.”

He said he headed back to the store where he stayed until 3 a.m. to comfort the family.

Mansour said Salem is married with three children.

“He was just trying to make a living and then someone just took his life,” he said.

Mansour said he also knows the Sulaka family.

Store video cameras showed a man with his face covered entering the store with a gun.

Shots were exchanged and the man was wounded at least once and possibly twice. Police believe the gunman will be forced to seek medical attention due to a large amount of blood left behind at the scene.

The robber is described as being 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall and with a stocky build. Police believe he escaped in a car that was parked behind the party store.

In late January, police arrested a man who had robbed four Clinton Township stores, including Bernie’s Market, over a four-hour period.

Mansour said the death of Salem serves as a reminder that tragedy can strike anywhere.

“Seeing something like this, anything is possible,” he said. “Around this area, I would never think anything like this would happen.”

John Dippoliti of Macomb Township and employee of Prairie Farms Dairy said he had sold products to the Salem in the past.

Dippoliti said Salem was very friendly and a good guy.

“I feel sadness. It just brings tears to your eyes,” he said. “I am just stunned. You have to be careful wherever you go. It doesn’t matter what area you are in.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the Clinton Township Police Department at (586) 493-7802 or directly to the detective bureau at (586) 493-7840.

tgreenwood@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2023