Mohammed Sohail, 48, who gave robber money, dies

Mohammad Sohail holds up a $50 bill and

Mohammad Sohail holds up a $50 bill and the letter that he received from a robber who robbed his Shirley store in May. (Dec, 2, 2009) Photo Credit: James Carbone

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Mohammed Sohail, the Shirley convenience store owner who became a national celebrity after giving a would-be robber $40 and a loaf of bread, has died.

Stony Brook Medical Center spokeswoman Lauren Sheprow said Sohail, 48, died Aug. 20. She declined to give a cause of death, but neighbors said they heard he had been hospitalized after suffering chest pains.

Known to customers and neighbors as "Mo," Sohail became the subject of national headlines in June 2009 after store surveillance cameras caught him showing mercy to a masked man who appeared to be trying to rob his store, Shirley Express Convenience on William Floyd Parkway. The video showed Sohail at first pointing a rifle at the man and then handing him cash and the loaf of bread.

At the time, Sohail said he could empathize with people who have money problems. He had five open tax warrants, totaling $137,331, with the state Department of Taxation and Finance.

Six months later, Sohail told reporters he had received a $50 bill and unsigned apology note in the mail. The letter opened with the words, "you changed my life" and the writer said he was the man who had attempted to rob the store. Sohail said he wasn't surprised because, "When you do good things, good things come back."

In interviews with Newsday, Sohail said he had moved to Shirley about 20 years ago after he saw an ad for a Long Island store for sale in a newspaper in his native Pakistan. He said he bought and sold several stores and had been at the Shirley location about six months when the attempted robbery occurred.

By January, Sohail closed the store, citing the soft economy. At the time, he said he might open a new store, buy a gas station or start a charitable foundation.

Sohail lived in a garage apartment in his Shirley home and rented out the rest of his house, according to neighbors. His family members could not be reached for comment Saturday.

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