EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — A suspect was on the run Wednesday morning after a worker at an East Harlem deli was fatally stabbed by an upset customer late Tuesday night, according to police.
The NYPD said the clerk called 911 and said he was being robbed just after 11:30 p.m., at a deli located on the corner of Second Avenue and East 102nd Street in East Harlem.
A police spokesperson later said the altercation started inside the deli when a customer got angry because he was 50 cents short for his purchase; he was a regular and wanted to buy a loose cigarette on credit, sources said.
The dispute spilled outside onto the street, authorities said.
Police are now looking at surveillance footage that appears to show the fight that led to the deadly stabbing.
The video of outside the store shows a man in red, who the victim’s cousin identified as another cousin who also works at the deli, armed with a bat and running down the block to confront someone in the distance, before retreating.
At some point during the dispute, the 34-year-old worker, later identified as Ahmed Almulaiki, was stabbed to death.
Responding officers arrived to find him in front of the deli with a stab wound to his torso, authorities said.
EMS rushed the victim to a nearby hospital, here he was subsequently pronounced dead, according to police.
Almulaiki was a father. He was originally from Yemen.
Almulaiki’s relative, Mohamed Zokari, said the victim called him for help in his final moments.
“I came here afterwards, they already took him…no more details for now. We have no clue what’s going on,” Zokari said on the scene. “They called me to call 911 because their English is not very well,” he added.
The NYPD said their preliminary investigation determined the deli employee got into a dispute with an unidentified male customer, which spilled out onto the sidewalk outside the store.
The fight escalated when the suspect stabbed Almulaiki and fled on foot, heading eastbound on East 102nd Street, authorities said.
Police said they were searching for a man in his 20s and that it was unclear whether or not he got away with any money or valuables.
No arrests had been made as of Wednesday evening.
Submit tips to police by calling Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS (8477), visiting crimestoppers.nypdonline.org, downloading the NYPD Crime Stoppers mobile app, or texting 274637 (CRIMES) then entering TIP577. Spanish-speaking callers are asked to dial 1-888-57-PISTA (74782).
The Associated Press contributed to this report.