By Tim Kelly
You don’t mess around with “The Sheik.”
A suspect in an attempted robbery found that out the hard way recently, when he strolled into the Ocean City Variety Store on Asbury Avenue and demanded money from store owner M. Aslam Sheikh.
“This is Ocean City,” said Sheikh, known as “the Sheik” to many of his friends and customers. “You don’t do something like that here. When he came in and asked me to put all the money in a bag, at first I thought he was joking. I looked at him and said ‘What did you say to me?’”
When the would-be robber repeated the demand, there was no hesitation by Sheikh, who resides in town with his wife Georgeann and his extended family.
“It took me about one hundredth of a second to realize he wasn’t joking, and to grab my baseball bat and run around toward him from behind the counter. He took off running like a bullet,” Sheikh said.
The incident, which Ocean City Police disclosed August 11 along with a press release and a sketch of the suspect, took place at 7:43 p.m. on July 29.
Police described the suspect as a white man in his early 20s, between 5’10” and 6 feet tall with a medium fit build, brown eyes, dark hair and light complexion. He was wearing a hoodie with a bandana over part of his face and he kept his hands inside the front pouch of the sweatshirt, police said in the release.
“He left the store and ran down Asbury Avenue, (headed) south,” said Sheikh, who said he pursued the man for a few steps and then stopped. At that point Sheikh said he realized the rest should be left up to police. He then returned to his store and dialed 911. Police arrived almost instantly, Sheikh said. But there was no sign of the suspect.
“I feel strongly that you don’t do that kind of thing,” said Sheikh, a U.S. citizen who was born in Pakistan. “I keep the bat just in case. It’s just a regular wooden baseball bat. I tried to look at his face with the hoodie and (the suspect) looked like he was messed up on drugs or something.”
Sheikh has operated the store since 2010 and also buys and sells real estate. The store sells soft drinks and snacks, sunscreen and suntan lotion, cigarettes, and a variety of electronics accessories, among other items. “A lot of the visitors come to Ocean City and they forget their phone charger and I have a wide variety of those,” he said. “I also have a lot of popular I-Phone accessories and sell a lot of those.”
Sheikh said he works hard and does not appreciate anyone trying to take something that does not belong to them. “I am a nice guy but I am also a stubborn guy,” he said. “I respect anybody and everybody and you can’t just come in here and do something like that.”
When asked if he was fearful during the incident, Sheikh said “No, no, no, no! No fear. If he had showed me a gun (it might have been different) but I thought ‘you don’t come in here and try something like that. There is no such thing in Ocean City. Everybody knows everybody else and people try to help each other. I’m not so sure that I am brave.”
In the press release, Ocean City Police asked for the public’s help in identifying the suspect. Anyone with information is asked to call OCPD at 609-399-9111.
“The best thing is nobody was hurt,” Sheikh said.