Shop co-owner details robbery ordeal

Hamdi Saadeh, 54, feared for his life Tuesday night during a robbery of his 2 Brothers convenience store in downtown Charleston.

Hamdi Saadeh looked into the pistol's barrel, then into the eyes of the man holding it. Those eyes were all he could see of the robber's face, but Saadeh could tell he was serious.

The robber had disrupted Saadeh's closing-time ritual before 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at 2 Brothers, his convenience store at the corner of Wentworth and Pitt streets and a block west of the College of Charleston. Saadeh was smoking a cigarette and watching Fox News -- hoping to see anchorwoman Megyn Kelly -- when the man decked in surgical gloves, a bandanna and a hat walked in and pointed a .40-caliber handgun at his head. The man cussed.

"I could see in his eyes he was ready to shoot me in the head," the 54-year-old businessman said. "I just didn't want any customers to come in. College girls are here all the time."

Saadeh thought of his wife and his four children as the robber ushered him to the register, which was plundered of $170 in cash. The robber swiped a pack of Newport cigarettes from a shelf.

Saadeh reasoned with the man to spare his wallet, which contained one of the Jordanian native's most prized belongings: his green card. The robber then offered a final warning: "If you call the police, I'll come back and kill you," Saadeh recalled.

Saadeh might have submitted to the request if it were not for what happened next.

Police officials said the robber ran three houses down Pitt Street and stepped into his silver Mercury Grand Marquis, which was blocking a driveway. When he saw people emerging onto a nearby home's porch, however, he got out and shot at them three times.

Bullets lodged into the house rented by students, but no one was hit.

The robber was described as a left-handed black man in his 20s, a little more than 6 feet tall. The store -- one of its two aisles devoted almost entirely to wine and beer -- often serves students, and the College of Charleston issued an alert after the robbery. Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis wouldn't say whether investigators have any leads.

On Wednesday, customers strolled into the store and asked if Saadeh was all right. A co-owner of this location since the summer, Saadeh has been through robberies at other businesses, including one in McClellanville that resulted in a fatal shooting and another in North Charleston when the robber also demanded Newport cigarettes.

But for this one, he praised his neighbors for encouraging him. That, he said, shed the stereotypes he once held about certain segments of the community.

"I'll continue to do this," he said. "I'm not a lawyer, not an engineer, not a doctor. This is the only job I know."