Tips from public sought in murder of dollar store owner

By Jeremy Selweski
FERNDALE — The family of the Ferndale business owner who was shot and killed last week is asking the public for help in tracking down the suspect.

Using contributions from the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Crime Stoppers of Michigan, as well as donations from other Ferndale businesses, investigators are offering a reward of up to $15,000 for anyone who can provide good information about the killer.

According to Ferndale police, Karim Khamarko, 64, of Southfield was working alone at the Dollar Club Plus store at 2750 Hilton Road when the shooting occurred. At around 9 p.m. on Nov. 26, police received a 911 call from a woman who entered the store to find Khamarko bleeding behind the counter near the cash register. He had been struck by two gunshots, said Detective Lt. Bill Wilson, and died shortly after being transported to a local hospital.

On Nov. 30, Khamarko’s family held a press conference outside the store, where loved ones had assembled a large memorial featuring flowers, candles and photo collages in honor of Khamarko.

Candace Khamarko, the youngest of Khamarko’s five children, called the shooting “a senseless crime” and urged witnesses to come forward with any valuable information.

“My father … was a beloved man who was taken away from the Ferndale community,” she said. “He was such a good, hardworking guy. He didn’t deserve for his life to end this way.”

Khamarko’s wife, Aida Khamarko, was visibly distraught as she addressed the crowd about the loss of her husband. “He was the love of my life for 34 years,” she said, fighting back tears. “We need justice for my family, for me and my children — please.”

John Broad, president of Crime Stoppers of Michigan, insisted that any additional evidence the public can provide would be useful to police. “No clue is too small,” he said.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Ferndale Police Department at (248) 541-3650 or Crime Stoppers at (800) SPEAK-UP. Callers may remain anonymous if they choose.

According to Martin Manna, executive director of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce, Khamarko’s murder marked the second workplace killing of a local Chaldean resident in the last two months. In October, 48-year-old Mazin Khmoro was fatally shot while taking out the trash at his family-owned party store in Southfield.

Martin pointed out that since 1970, almost 200 Chaldean-Americans in metro Detroit have been killed while at their place of business. He added that store clerks like Khamarko have the third most dangerous job in the U.S., behind fishermen and taxi drivers.

Khamarko had been in business in Ferndale for more than 15 years. He and his family first owned a video store nearby on Woodward Heights before moving into the Hilton location in 1999. The business was then converted into a dollar store about five years ago.

Khamarko’s son, Kevin Khamarko, said that he and his family are unsure if Dollar Club Plus will ever reopen. “We haven’t decided what we want to do about the business yet,” he said.

Wilson noted that because no major witnesses had contacted the police as of Nov. 30, details on the shooting remain scarce.

“This was apparently just a robbery that went bad,” he said. “We do have some physical evidence and some video footage, but we still need some help from the public on this one.”

Police believe that only one suspect was involved in the shooting, Wilson said, but they do not yet have a good description of him. The shooter also likely did not have a vehicle and came to the store on foot, he said. He stole cash from the store and fled the scene before police arrived.

Wilson added that investigators do not believe the shooting was a hate crime motivated by Khamarko’s status as a Chaldean-American.

At the press conference, it appeared news of Khamarko’s death had shaken the surrounding neighborhood. William Tyler, 41, of Ferndale lives only a few houses away from the Dollar Club Plus and said that he has known Khamarko and his family for the past 15 years.

On the night of Nov. 26, he said that he heard several loud “banging” noises outside that he thought were the sound of people shooting off fireworks. He was greatly saddened the next day when he learned of Khamarko’s murder.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I really hope they catch whoever did this and crucify him. … (Khamarko) was just trying to make a living. He was a nice old man who never meant any harm to anyone.”