“He said, 'I want to be a Muslim just like you,'" Mohammad Sohail, owner of the Shirley Express convenience store in New York’s Long Island city, told CNN on Wednesday, June 3.
Sohail, 47, was closing up his store just after midnight when -- as shown on the store's surveillance camera -- a man came in wielding a baseball bat and demanding money.
But when Sohail reached under the counter and pulled out his shotgun, the masked robber dropped the bat and collapsed in tears saying he only wanted to feed his starving family.
“'Don't call police, I have no money, I have no food in my house,'" he told Sohail.
"He's crying like a baby," recalls the Muslim shoper.
He offered the man $40 and a loaf of bread, but only after he promised never to rob anyone again.
"When he got the $40 he's very impressed.”
The stunned assailant then told Sohail he wanted to become a Muslim like him.
Sohail said he then pretended to swear the man into Islam and the two ended up shaking hands.
Sohail, who moved to the US from Pakistan 20 years ago, says he knows how it feels to have problems with money.
He contends that his own financial woes prompted him to sympathize with the masked robber.
“It's too bad for everybody right now in this economy."
Sohail said the police might still be looking for the suspect but he doesn't intend to press charges.
"The guy, you know, everybody has a hard time right now.”
For those who know Sohail, his compassionate attitude towards the bat-wielding robber, carried on TV and newspapers across the nation, came as no surprise.
"Even when I didn't have money for a pack of smokes, he'd say 'Go ahead, go for it,'" Prudence Ferrante, who works next door in a carpet store, told the Newsday daily, which first obtained the surveillance video showing the incident.
"Some people have hearts, some people don't,” said Ferrante.
“But I know he does."
Sean Henry, another customer, sais Sohail is known as a respected man in the community and a smiling face.
"I don't see one bad bone in his body."