The chilling robbery and murder of Siboram Patro, a 67-year-old Indian-American gas station clerk, by three unidentified masked men, at the Tacony Exxon Minimart in Northeast Philadelphia on January 17, 2023, has sent shock waves among South Asian gas station owners and employees in the United States.
Over the years, horrific incidents such as these have become a common occurrence where immigrants, especially Indian-Americans, are often targeted by violent criminals across the country. On December 7, 2021, Amitkumar Patel, a 45-year-old Indian-American gas station owner was murdered in a brazen daylight robbery at Synovus Bank in East Columbus, Georgia. On November 17, 2021, Indian-American Sajan Mathew, a 55 year-old owner of a dollar store was shot dead during a robbery attempt in Mesquite, Texas. On April 6, 2017, another Indian-American, Vikram Jaryal, a 26-year-old gas station clerk, was shot and killed by two masked armed robbers in Yakima City, Washington. This is apart from attacks on gas stations where other than Indians were shot and killed.
In the latest incident, two days after Patro was shot by the trio in the early hours of January 17 and pronounced dead on arrival by the police, the Exxon gas station announced discontinuation of overnight services, said a report from CBSnews. The three suspects who fled with the cash register remain at-large.
The victim, Patro, who is survived by his wife and son, had recently returned from a trip to India. “My heart is breaking for him, his family… There was no reason,” a neighbor said while calling it a “senseless” act said a report in NBC Philadelphia. Another media report from Newsbreak – as told by neighbors – indicated the victim was quite worried about the increasing local crime, such as carjacking incidents at parking lots and break-in attempts to steal from gaming machines inside stores. Due to such incidents, the 24/7 gas station store where the victim was employed had security measures put in place including a bulletproof shield.
A candlelight vigil which was initially planned for January 21, 2023, at the Tacony gas station was postponed to the following week per the request of the Patro family, said authorities.
Authorities have now announced a reward of $20K in exchange for information leading to the arrest of these men who committed the ghastly act. Available CCTV footage released by the police from the crime scene revealed that all suspects wore hooded sweatshirts and jackets and covered their faces with masks. One suspect in a red hooded sweatshirt, was spotted with a black handgun.
Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Scott Small, while describing the incident from the footage said, “You can clearly see three males enter the property… they all had masks covering their faces. You can see them physically struggle with him and that’s when he gets shot,” adding, “After he collapses, you can see one of the perpetrators then remove the cash register from the office and then take it from the property. This is a tragedy.”
A customer who knew Patro well but wished to stay anonymous said that the victim even changed his habits as he was really scared to venture out at night. “He won’t even smoke out here. For many years he would take a cigarette break out here and he just completely stopped because he was too scared something like this would happen. We just had this conversation last week,” the customer told Action News. “And today, we’re standing here and now he’s gone. It’s just really heartbreaking.”
“It was very sad. It was tragic. The member was unfortunately assassinated. He was well-liked by the community who knew kids on a one-on-one basis,” Philadelphia Police Captain Jose Medina said.
Police have requested the public to provide tips by calling (215) 686-8477 or texting (215) 686-8477. All tips will be treated confidentially.