A 23-year-old man was killed inside the Bradenton smoke shop he ran with his brother during what appears to have been an attempted robbery, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Mohammed Hamed was working at the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop, in the Oasis Plaza shopping center at 3212 First St. in Bradenton, alone on Tuesday night. He was known to sleep in a back room of the store.
At 10:52 p.m., Hamed’s brother called 911 to report that he had been alerted by the shop’s video surveillance system of intruders in a restricted area of the store and that he could see his brother on the ground with two men armed with guns standing over him.
Deputies responded to the scene, established a perimeter and cleared the open business. However, Hamed was dead when they found him in the back room.
The sheriff’s office released images taken from surveillance video footage as part of a request for help from the public in identifying the killers. One image shows a suspect holding an SKS rifle with a bayonet.
“We’re trying to find customers who were in the store leading up to Mr. Hamed’s death to see what conversations they have seen or overheard,” sheriff’s office spokesman Randy Warren said.
News of the killing became public at 3:40 a.m. when the sheriff’s office tweeted that detectives were investigating the death of a man found inside the smoke shop.
Shortly after 6 a.m., crime scene investigators could be seen dusting the newly opened business for fingerprints. By 6:30 a.m., the victim was taken out the back door and transported to the medical examiner’s office.
Nothing appeared to be disturbed inside the business from the front windows, and investigators have not confirmed whether anything was stolen.
Detectives began to interview family members, who asked the media that they not be disturbed.
Letitia Parker, of Bayshore Gardens, rushed to the scene Wednesday morning with her son after he saw news reports of the homicide.
“I can’t believe this,” Parker said while crying.
She has known the Hamed brothers since they opened the business about a year ago, she said. The victim was the first friend she made after moving from Seattle to Bradenton about three years ago.
“He was a very gentle person. He was so kind,” Parker said.
The brothers live in Tampa but the victim was known to sleep at the store in the back room that was set up with a sleeping area and somewhere for him to play video games.
The shop’s open lights were flashing even as the sheriff’s office cleared the scene Wednesday morning. Also, Hamed’s van remained in the parking lot outside the smoke shop.
Parker was distraught that the motive could have been robbery. She said that Hamed would have given anyone anything they wanted.
“They probably had to kill him, because that boy is strong. They are very, very strong, independent brothers,” Parker said.
As the sun began to rise, neighbors and other business owners in the plaza began to gather in the area. The owner of Herbalife, a few doors down from the smoke shop, said the business has had some issues since it opened.
“The day after they opened, someone broke into the empty space next door to them through a window and went through the wall to get into their business,” Fred Villalobos said.
“These walls are basically nothing and would be easy to get through. I heard that one or two of their family were staying inside the business because of that break-in.”
But that break-in was never reported to the sheriff’s office, according to Warren. The sheriff’s office had been called out to the store twice earlier to investigate a stolen credit card being used at the store and because of a customer’s wallet being forgotten and then stolen.
Cathy Trotter lives in a neighborhood behind the plaza and said for the most part, it’s a relatively quiet area.
“There is a small group of homeless people who stay behind there,” Trotter said. “A lady (overdosed) one time and I had to call the paramedics to save her life. They don’t cause too many problems, but they did break into an empty house next door to mine one time and that same night, my bike got stolen.”