Mitesh Patel, a young Indian American was killed on January 29 during an armed robbery at the Bossey Drive-in Dairy he owned in San Bernardino, Calif. Mitesh Patel, 31, leaves behind his wife, Bhavika, and his three-year-old daughter, Vrisha. A memorial page –gofundme.com/miteshpatel – has been set up to establish a college fund for Vrisha.
Desmond Keyontre Stevenson of San Bernardino, 25, and Robert Almond Green of Highland, 23, were arrested Jan. 31 in connection with the murder. According to police reports, Stevenson and Green entered the store at 9:48 p.m., armed with a rifle and a handgun and wearing masks. The pair demanded money from Patel, who gave them all the money in the register — $200 – but then fired a single round which hit Patel in the chest and killed him almost instantly.
San Bernardino Police Lt. Richard Lawhead told India-West that Patel’s brother-in-law – who is not being identified – was also in the store, but in the bathroom during the shooting. When he emerged from the bathroom, the assailants pointed the gun at him and took his cell phone but did not shoot, before fleeing in a get-away car, he said.
Lawhead said the pair then went down the street to another convenience store, which they also tried to rob, but could not, as the cashier was protected by bullet-proof glass. Because they were masked, there was initially some difficulty in finding and capturing the suspects.
Police got an identification of the get-away vehicle – a white Mercedes Benz SUV – which had some distinctive features on the front end, and special wheels. Another officer – who used to work on the city’s gang abatement force – recognized the vehicle. Police then identified the owner, who had sold the car to Jason Allen, 25, who drove the get-away car. Allen was arrested at his home Feb. 1 and is being held on $1 million bail. Stevenson, suspected to be the shooter, is being held without bail. Green is also being held without bail. Both are being held on charges of murder, robbery and street terrorism. All three have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Lawhead said Green and Stevenson are documented gang members. Stevenson was released from prison Dec. 23, 2015, having served eight months of a 16-month prison term on weapons charges.
Asked if there was any indication that the shooting may have been a hate-motivated crime, Lawhead said there was no evidence to indicate the incident was anything other than a robbery.
The Southern California South Asian American community has faced a surge of hate-motivated attacks in the aftermath of the Dec. 2, 2015 massacre in San Bernardino, when Muslim Americans Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, killed 14 people at a rehabilitation center for handicapped people.
“Mitesh Patel was a beloved father, son, husband, brother, and friend to all who knew him. He was taken away from us far too early in a horrible tragedy that reminds us all how fragile life is,” wrote family members on Patel’s memorial page, which has raised almost $15,000 for Vrisha’s college funds in the five days since it was launched. Donors grieved for the family and “the senseless tragedy.”
The family thanked donors for their support. “Thank you to everyone for your unwavering support during this difficult time. It is very consoling to know that the world is filled with good people who can overcome the kind of hatred that led to this tragedy.” Regular customers at the store described Patel as a generous man.