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Long IslandCrime

Killed South Hempstead gas station manager mourned as hardworking, generous

Cemal Dagdeviren was run over Monday by a man trying to avoid paying for $22 worth of gas, police said.

A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial

A woman leaves flowers at a makeshift memorial for Pit Stop gas station manager Cemal Dagdeviren on Tuesday. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The South Hempstead gas station manager killed by a motorist trying to leave without paying for $22 worth of gas was a hard-working immigrant from Turkey seeking better lives for him and his family, his son said Tuesday.

Cemal Dagdeviren, 59, of Levittown, had a genuinely warm and generous spirit, according to longtime customers who stopped by the Pit Stop gas station on Grand Avenue to pay their respects.

“My father worked hard for his family and never got into trouble, never even got a parking ticket,” said his son, Ali Dagdeviren, 35. “We are in a lot of pain. This is really hard for us.”

Dagdeviren was killed Monday morning, Nassau police said, when he was run over by a dark GMC Yukon or Suburban driven by a man trying to avoid paying for $22 worth of gas. A Nassau police spokesman said detectives continued to investigate the homicide Tuesday but declined further comment.

“He is a monster,” Ali Dagdeviren said. “He should not be allowed on the street. If he can do this for $22, what else will he do?”

The Pit Stop was closed Tuesday, surrounded by yellow crime scene tape, and blood stained the street where Dagdeviren died. Customers and friends created a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk with flowers and candles. Employees from a nearby Advance Auto Parts Store, where Dagdeviren purchased oil and parts he used to repair clients’ cars, left a toy truck they said Dagdeviren had often admired.

“He would say, ‘Have a good day,’ and he meant it,” said longtime customer Liz Boylan of Rockville Centre, teary-eyed after dropping off flowers. “I am upset because he was just so sweet.”  

Dagdeviren and his wife moved their family from Turkey to the United States 25 years ago seeking a better life, according to his son, who said he has a 25-year-old brother.

Customers who stopped by the Pit Stop to pay their respects said Dagdeviren was well-known in the neighborhood as a friendly man with a quick smile, an excellent mechanic who sometimes waved them off when they tried to pay him for his service.

“It is very sad,” said Yvonne Holloway, who said she lives a few minutes away from the gas station. “He was a very hardworking man, and one of the nicest people you could ever meet.”

A vigil was held Tuesday evening at the gas station. Dagdeviren's funeral will be Wednesday, his son said.

Surveillance video released by Nassau police shows the suspect attempting to drive off without paying for $22 worth of fuel. Dagdeviren tried to stop the man by stepping in front of the vehicle. The suspect then accelerated, fatally running over the gas station manager.

Police described the suspect as being in his 30s, thin and taller than 6 feet. He was wearing an orange hat over dreadlocks, black cargo pants, a gray sweatshirt and work boots, police said.

“All for $22,” a co-worker who declined to give his name said. “He would have given him $22 if the guy had asked for it.”

Police said the gas station owner is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of the suspect, matching the $5,000 offered by Nassau County Crime Stoppers. A GoFundMe page seeking $12,000 to help the Dagdeviren family with funeral expenses had raised $10,730 by Tuesday night.

Detectives ask anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 800-244-8477.

“Homicide detectives are working hard on this,” said Nassau police spokesman Lt. Det. Richard LeBrun. 

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