River North mourns storeowner

October 22, 2010 10:37:52 AM PDT
The 59-year-old owner of a convenience store has been killed in a brutal shooting.The victim, identified as Bassam Naoum, was shot in the back six times inside his Near North Side business. Police say robbery likely was not the motive.

Authorities said Sunday no arrests had been made, but they were seeking three suspects. They say the three were caught on one of the police department's blue light cameras as they fled the crime scene.

Naoum was well known and liked in the community. The 59-year-old was remembered Sunday as a generous person who often gave out food when people were short on money and would visit customers when they were in the hospital.

The victim's family members spoke to ABC7 Chicago Sunday.

"We're struggling, but we're trying to make it through the day," said the victim's son, Farris Naoum.

"We have a lot of friends and family calling and supporting us and traveling in. There will be more people arriving tonight and tomorrow, and that's what we're counting on," said wife Phoebe Naoum.

The shooting happened at approximately 9 p.m. Saturday in the Munchies store at Oak and Orleans in the rapidly changing Cabrini Green neighborhood. Naoum opened the store 10 years ago.

"This is such a tragedy, Lord. Lord, we ask that you to pull us up," said one person as mourners gathered near the store and prayed Sunday.

The grief-stricken prayed while residents in the neighborhood remembered their beloved Bassam Naoum.

"My heart was so heavy last night I couldn't sleep," said neighbor Felicia Robinson.

Robinson and others mourn the death of the shopkeeper who was gunned down inside the convenience store he opened over a decade ago.

Sunday, Naoum -- who was known to his many customers as "Olley"-- was being remembered as a man who was beyond generous and often extended a helping hand to those down on their luck.

"He gave these people hope. When they didn't have food, he gave them food. When you needed to talk about something, he was there," said Arlene Hall, one of the victim's former employees.

A man named Robert Winston lingered outside the store's locked front door Sunday morning, along with the signs of a community's grief, telling anyone who would listen how Naoum helped him while he was in the hospital for a recent heart surgery.

"When I got sick, I'll tell anybody, when you were sick, he would see all your friends. He wasn't no friend, he was my father," Winston said.

Police investigating Naoum's murder returned to the store and said robbery did not appear to have been a motive because the victim was still wearing an expensive watch when he was found.

"Certain items were not taken. There was money left in the cash register," said Supt. Jody Weis, Chicago Police Department.

Naoum's impact on the community was clear Sunday, and along with pleas for healing, there is a $1,000 reward to spark any arrests.

"Any information, man, just give us a call at Area 3 or the 1-800 number," one person said as he passed out fliers to motorists.

Meanwhile, the family members and friends of the father and husband who immigrated from Jordan to study 40 years ago wonder who could do such a thing.

"It's senseless, just senseless to take a man from his family, beautiful children, a man who has done everything for the community," family spokesperson Gazi Mashal said tearfully.

Naoum also owned another convenience store on Larabee that carried his nickname, Olley's. That's what many customers called him.

Family and community members said they had planned a vigil for Monday at 8 p.m. in front of Munchies.


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