Ulkiye Dagdeviren, wife of gas station manager Cemal “John” Dagdeviren,...

Ulkiye Dagdeviren, wife of gas station manager Cemal “John” Dagdeviren, of Levittown, speaks to prosecutor Brian Rodriguez during a break in the trial Wednesday.

Credit: Jeff Bachner

A Baldwin man on trial for the 2019 hit-and-run death of a South Hempstead gas station manager intentionally ran the man over, a Nassau County prosecutor said in his closing statement Wednesday — all because the defendant didn’t want to pay $22 for fuel for his SUV.

Assistant District Attorney Brian Rodriguez told the jury that evidence presented during the three-week trial showed that the death of Pit Stop manager Cemal “John” Dagdeviren, of Levittown, was not a tragic accident, as Joseph LoPiccolo, the attorney for defendant Joshua E. Roston, said earlier in the day during his summation. 

Dagdeviren’s death, the prosecutor said, was the direct result of Roston’s attempts to flee without paying for gas for his 1999 GMC Yukon.

“He intended to leave without paying,” Rodriguez told the jury as he repeatedly showed jurors a video of the fatal incident, upsetting friends and relatives of the victim who attended closing arguments in county criminal court in Mineola. “He also intended to kill John at that moment.” 

A 2019 indictment charged Roston with three counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree robbery, and other crimes. The jury is expected to begin deliberations Thursday morning.

Dagdeviren’s family members and friends declined to speak to reporters after closing arguments. 

Police have said Roston pulled up to the gas station on Grand Avenue at about 7:24 a.m. on Jan. 14 and asked an attendant to pump gas into his black Yukon.

The attendant pumped $22 worth of gas into Roston's SUV but noticed it was missing inspection and registration stickers and had no license plates. He asked Roston to pay inside the service station, where, authorities have said, Roston tried to use a fraudulent credit card.

Dagdeviren, who arrived for his shift at the gas station just minutes earlier, followed Roston outside to his SUV. The video shows the gas station manager knocking on the driver’s side window, grabbing a windshield wiper and stepping in front of the Yukon to prevent Roston from leaving. 

Roston had fled full-service gas stations after asking attendants to put fuel in his car several times in the months preceding Dagdeviren’s death, Rodriguez said. 

Earlier Wednesday, LoPiccolo told the jury that Roston did not intend to steal gas or hurt anybody that morning. Roston had hoped to go to an ATM to retrieve cash and return to the Pit Stop, the attorney said. Roston, who is Black, became frustrated because he thought he was being racially profiled by the gas station staff and decided to leave, LoPiccolo told the jury. 

Roston became frightened as Dagdeviren confronted him, especially after the gas station manager reached for something in the breast pocket of his Pit Stop jacket, the attorney said. Roston did not see Dagdeviren step in front of the Yukon as he pulled out of the gas station lot, LoPiccolo told the jury. He had not resorted to violence during other confrontations with gas station attendants. 

“This was a tragic accident,” LoPiccolo told the jury. “It was not murder. It was not robbery.”

However, Rodriguez said, “This was intentional murder.”

Rodriguez said the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Roston did not use violence after refusing to pay at other gas stations because he used his bulk to intimidate attendants. He said Dagdeviren was reaching for a cellphone to take video of Roston fleeing the scene, not a gun to shoot the defendant.

“Why didn’t he just stop?” Rodriguez asked.

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