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Suffolk police looking for suspect in fatal hit-and-run in North Bay Shore

Suffolk County police respond to a 7-Eleven in

Suffolk County police respond to a 7-Eleven in North Bay Shore on Friday, Nov. 28, 2014, after Dionel Ramirez, 69, in photo at left, was struck and killed by his car as it was being stolen outside the store, police said. Credit: Ramirez family and Stringer News

A North Amityville man who was picking up a food donation for the homeless was struck and killed by his own car when it was stolen outside a convenience store early Friday, according to police and family members.

The car was recovered hours later, but police Friday night had not arrested a suspect.

The victim, Dionel Ramirez, 69, was remembered as a compassionate, hardworking man who, acting on his own, often gave food and other support to those in need.

"He'd take time out of his day to help people out," said his daughter, Michelle Ramirez, 24.

Dionel Ramirez was on his way to work shortly before dawn when he stopped at a 7-Eleven on Pine Aire Drive in North Bay Shore to pick up a bag of donated doughnuts -- a daily ritual.

He left the car running and the driver's door open, police said.

When the suspect jumped inside and tried to drive off at 5:42 a.m., Ramirez attempted to stop the car in the parking lot, according to Det. Lt. Kevin Beyrer of the Suffolk County Homicide Squad.

"He somehow got in front of the car and it ran him over," Beyrer said of the victim.

The suspect sped away. The car, a Hyundai, was found abandoned nearby, according to the family.

Ramirez was taken to Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he was pronounced dead, police said.

Workers at the 7-Eleven declined to comment. Police would not say whether the store had captured the incident on surveillance video.

Cradling a framed photograph of her father, Michelle Ramirez said he was a devout man who did what he could to help those less fortunate.

"Every morning he goes to get a cup of coffee for himself, and the 7-Eleven employees give him a bag of doughnuts, and he will go out and hand them out to the homeless people," she said, standing outside the family's Jefferson Avenue home yesterday afternoon.

Dionel Ramirez emigrated from Guatemala more than 40 years ago and joined the Army, she said.

A proud veteran, she said, he served for more than 20 years before retiring from the military and settling on Long Island. Military records were not immediately available.

He later worked cleaning movie theaters for a living, and showed pride in the two-story home he and his wife, Blanca, owned, his daughter said.

When he wasn't working, she said her father would fix up the house, scrambling up a ladder to clean windows or landscaping the front yard. He loved his family and doted on their pets -- two dogs and a cat.

"He came from a poor country, and he grew up here and received all this -- this house, all these cars," she said. "And he just wants to give back and give people hope."

After his janitorial shifts at the theaters, he'd collect bags of unsold popcorn to give to people living on the streets, she said.

"He's always trying to find a way to help the homeless out," she added. "He'll give out information like, 'Here's a place to stay, you can stay warm here.' "

Police are searching for clues. Anyone with information is asked to call the Homicide Squad at 631-852-6392 or Crime Stoppers at 800-220-8477. All calls will be kept confidential.

With Jennifer Barrios,

Gary Dymski and Will James

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