2 persons of interest held in Clinton Twp. shooting

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By Christina Hall, Detroit Free Press
(Photo: Chris Hall, Detroit Free Press)
Two people are in custody in connection with the Thursday slaying of a Clinton Township party store owner, police said today.
Police said the two are being questioned in the shooting of Emil Salem, 50, the nearly 20-year owner of Bernie’s Party Store on Garfield near 17½ Mile, who exchanged gunfire with a man who entered the store waving a gun.

The first person of interest is an Oak Park man who was wanted on a warrant from the Michigan Department of Corrections for being a parole absconder. He was on parole for armed robbery, Clinton Township Police Capt. Richard Maierle said.

The man is being treated for two non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to his face and foot at a hospital in Ohio.

The second is a Detroit woman who police say is suspected of being an accessory after the fact. She is currently jailed in Ohio, Maierle said. He said a warrant request is to be presented to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office.

Police did not release the ages or names of the two people because they have not been charged in the slaying.

Police said a man waving a gun entered the party store and went to the back office, which was locked. Salem pulled out a gun, according to video reviewed by police.

Police said it wasn’t clear who fired first, but Salem fired a shot that hit the suspect, who was struck at least once and maybe more times, possibly in the upper body.

The suspect fired back at Salem, with a bullet going through a display case and hitting him in the head, Maierle had said. Salem was behind the open counter.

Eventually, the suspect ran out of the store and went around a corner, possibly getting into a car behind the building. Blood spatters stretched along the front sidewalk of the strip mall where the party store is located.

Police did not release further details about the two people or their specific connection to the shooting, but Maierle said, “We’re making good progress” in the case.

He said a police department in northern Ohio was notified Friday of a man seeking medical treatment for gunshot wounds at a local hospital.

He told police he was attacked in a robbery in Ohio. Police were suspicious, did an Internet search and found information about the party store slaying. They notified township police, Maierle said.

The shooting came two months after Bernie’s was robbed in January; a suspect in that case was arrested.

Funeral arrangements have been made for Salem, a husband and father of four children. Visitation will be 4-9 p.m. Sunday at Wujek-Calcaterra & Sons, Inc., 36900 Schoenherr at Metro Parkway, in Sterling Heights. A Mass is set for noon Monday at Mother of God Chaldean Catholic Church, 25585 Berg Rd., Southfield. Burial will be at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Southfield, according to the funeral home website.

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of another beloved Clinton Township party store owner, Basim (Basil) Sulaka. Sulaka, 51, was gunned down during a robbery at his longtime store, Moon Lite Party Store, on Harper.

Four men from metro Detroit are charged in his death, with one of them currently on trial in Macomb County Circuit Court.

The Detroit Pub was holding an event today to remember Sulaka, with a vigil about 10:30 p.m. until 11:15 p.m. at the nearby Moon Lite Party Store, according to the pub’s Facebook page.

Police continue to seek information about Salem’s slaying. Anyone with information is asked to call 586-493-7840 during business hours or 586-493-7802 or 586-493-7803 anytime.

Contact Christina Hall: chall99@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @challreporter?.