HAZLETON — Charges have been filed against a man who police say shot and killed a convenience store employee in a robbery last month.
According to a release from the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office sent out on Tuesday night, Jafet Rodriguez, 40, has been charged with an open count of criminal homicide in connection with the Dec. 12, 2020, death of Ashokkumar Patel.
Patel was shot and killed during a robbery at Craig’s Food Mart in Hazleton, where he was working as a clerk. Rodriguez is also facing charges of robbery, burglary and theft, along with multiple counts of possession with intent to deliver heroin or fentanyl.
According to the release, Patel was mopping the floor just after 9 p.m. that night, when Rodriguez entered the store, dressed in a red Nike sweatshirt, black gloves and black face mask with a toothy grin printed on it. His hood was pulled up over his head.
The release goes on to say that Rodriguez walked into the store with a hand gun in his right hand. Immediately upon entering, Rodriguez allegedly cycled the action of the gun and pointed it towards Patel.
Rodriguez allegedly then shoved Patel into a closet, and fired a single shot into Patel’s head and neck area.
Patel collapsed to the ground.
Rodriguez then allegedly went behind the counter and began grabbing loose handfuls of cash and a bank deposit bag. Investigators say he got away with more than $14,000.
Patel did not die instantly, the release says. Instead, he crawled to the counter, calling 911. He was unable to to tell 911 any information, due to his injuries. He bled out and died on the floor.
Dr. Gary Ross, forensic pathologist, performed Patel’s autopsy in the days after his death and determined the cause of death was the single gunshot and the manner of death was homicide.
Investigators say they were able to track Rodriguez down using video surveillance footage and data from his cell phone, which allegedly shows he traveled from his home to the food mart and back home in a time frame that matches up with the murder.
Video footage then allegedly shows that Rodriguez traveled to an auto detailing business he owned and operated at 410 Diamond East Avenue in Hazleton. A search of the facility while investigators executed a search warrant found all of the clothing he allegedly wore to the robbery inside a trash bag, smiling mask and all.
Investigators held a press conference in regards to the investigation on Tuesday night; this story will be updated with details from it shortly.