Update below: Mon Rai, a 30-year-old immigrant refugee who worked at a St. Louis 7-Eleven store, was shot to death last night on the job, leaving behind an eight-year-old son and a pregnant wife.
The couple was expecting their second child this week.
"It is just heartbreaking," Anita Barker, vice president of education at the International Institute of St. Louis, tells Daily RFT. "We are all really devastated."
Rai was a Bhutanese immigrant who was sponsored by the institute and came to St. Louis in September of 2012 after nearly two decades living in a refugee camp.
This fatal shooting happened less than two weeks after an immigrant store owner was shot to death by an armed robber in the city. Haris Gogic, nineteen, from Bosnia, was shot in the head in front of his brother, a co-owner of their store. That suspect, who left with around $30, has been arrested and charged.
This latest tragic shooting of an immigrant at a convenience store happened last night at the 7-Eleven on Gravois Avenue by Bates Street in south St. Louis.
Police arrived around 12:30 a.m. in response to a call from a customer who found Rai lying on the floor bleeding, according to the incident report. Rai was taken to the hospital and soon after pronounced dead.
As of this writing, police have very few details about the suspect, except that he was "wearing dark clothing."
Rai, according to the International Institute of St. Louis -- which offers adjustment services for refugees and immigrants -- was originally from Bhutan but had lived in a refugee camp in Nepal for many years.
Suzanne LeLaurin, senior vice president for individuals and families at the institue, tells Daily RFT that his wife "is pregnant and is due to deliver in the next day or so."
She says, "The staff, as well as other clients, are just devastated."
Referencing the killing last month of the Bosnian immigrant, she says, "It's just hard to wrap your head around these kinds of things.... These are people who fled persecution and in [Rai's] case, his family had lived in a refugee camp for nineteen years under very horrible conditions. Then they come here thinking they are going to be safe and something like this happens."
He was participating in the International Institute's highest-level English class, she says.
Other refugee members of the institute are coming together to support the family, LeLaurin adds.
Barker, who had worked directly with Rai, tells us, "He was one of those exemplary students with not only really good English, but he was hard-working, kind, friendly...[had] a very positive attitude."
Rai was part of a small group of students that the institute had invited to be an interpreter at a path to citizenship event, she notes.
"He was excited to contribute to his new country," Barker says. "He was just one of those people that you know is going to succeed in this country. He has all of the tools, not just the language skills, but the personality, the positive attitude, the eagerness to contribute."
Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven, says in an e-mail to Daily RFT that the incident happened a little after midnight and that the employee was working by the sandwich case when an unidentified male approached him from behind and shot him. A few minutes later, she says, a customer found the employee and called 911.
She also issued this statement:
We at 7-Eleven, Inc. are shocked and deeply saddened over what appears to be the random shooting of a 7-Eleven® store employee at one of our St. Louis stores. 7-Eleven and its franchisee are doing everything we can to work closely with police during the investigation, and we hope for a quick apprehension of the suspect involved.
Rai is the 40th homicide victim in the city of St. Louis in 2013. Police say he lived in the Dutchtown South neighborhood.
Update, 3 p.m.: The institute has provided Daily RFT with the above photo of Rai and also has set up an account at Southern Commercial Bank for contributions to the family. Contributions can be sent to any Southern Commercial branch, and the account is listed as "Funds for Mon Rai Family." Locations can be found here.
Here's the short incident report summary from SLMPD.
Location: 5600 block of Gravois (7-Eleven)
Date/Time: 6/10/13 @ 00:31
Victim: Mon Rai, 30-year old Asian male
Suspect: unknown suspect, wearing dark clothing
Officers responded to the 7-Eleven at the above location after a customer reported the store clerk lying on the floor bleeding. Upon arrival, the officers located the victim on the floor suffering from a gunshot wound to his back. The victim was conveyed to a local hospital and pronounced deceased. The investigation is ongoing.
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