Exactly a month after the tragic shooting death of Ashokkumar Patel, a store clerk in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office announced on Jan. 12, 2021, that criminal charges including homicide have been filed against suspect Jafet Rodriguez for the alleged murder of Patel, which occurred on Dec. 12, 2020 at Craig’s Food Mart in Hazleton.
According to a Jan. 12, 2021. press release from the Luzerne DA’s office, a little after 9:00 p.m. on Dec. 12, when Patel was working as a clerk at Craig’s Food Mart which is located off of Broad Street, in Hazleton, the suspect, who police identify as Jafet Rodriguez, entered the store dressed in a red sweatshirt, black gloves, and a black face mask with white smiling teeth design.
Rodriguez shoved Patel into a closet and fired a single gunshot to Patel’s head and neck area causing Patel to collapse to the ground. Rodriguez then rushed to an area behind the counter, and stole more than $14,000 which the investigators determined later, and fled the store.
However, Patel did not die instantly. He crawled to the counter and dialed 911 from his cellphone but succumbed to the injury before he could inform authorities of the incident.
GPS data on Rodriguez’s cell phone demonstrated that he traveled from his home, to Craig’s Food Mart, and then back to his home around the time of Patel’s murder.
He then left his home carrying a trash bag and drove to 410 E. Diamond Avenue, where Rodriguez owned and operated an auto detailing business.
On January 8, 2021, Hazleton City Police and the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office executed a search warrant at 410 E. Diamond Avenue. Inside of a trash bag, investigators found the same red sweatshirt, black gloves, and a black face mask with the white smiling teeth design, the press release said.
In addition to one count of criminal homicide, Rodriguez was also charged with one count each of robbery, burglary and theft. He has been in police custody since his arrest on the possession of drug charges on Dec 19, 2020.
“All murders are senseless acts of violence but in all of my years as District Attorney, the murder of Ashokkumar Patel struck a chord with myself, my staff, the police, and the community like few others have,” District Attorney Stefanie J. Salavantis said in the press release.