CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Two men are facing murder charges in connection with the killing of a convenience store clerk in southwest Charlotte.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police investigators say Khaled Mohamad Elmerkabaoui was working alone when he was killed "in cold blood" in what appears to be a robbery attempt at a 7-Eleven in the 700 block of Westinghouse Boulevard on Dec. 9.
"It just appears to be a robbery gone bad and for whatever reason the suspect killed the clerk for no apparent reason," said Captain Chris Dozier.
According to CMPD, the vehicle that was wanted in connection with the shooting was spotted by officers around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning. Police say they attempted to stop the driver, who was identified as 29-year-old Treyvonte Luwanna Lockhart, in a neighborhood located off of Park Road and Highway 51, but he reportedly refused and lead officers on a chase. The chase ended in Concord when Lockhart reportedly abandoned the vehicle, police say.
A short time later, officers were able to find Lockhart and arrest him, according to police. Lockhart was charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon and possessing a stolen firearm.
On Tuesday night, police say the second suspect, identified as 44-year-old Geoffrey Ford, was spotted driving a vehicle in a residential neighborhood near Carmel Road at Quail Hollow Road in south Charlotte just before 9 p.m. According to CMPD, officers tried to conduct a traffic stop but Ford reportedly ran from the vehicle on foot. Police say they were able to set up a perimeter and arrest Ford a short time later.
Police say Ford was allegedly alone in the car during the incident.
Ford was charged with murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon.
Investigators say Lockhart was the getaway driver in the vehicle outside the 7-Eleven while Ford was the alleged gunman inside the store.
"The community can be relieved now that we have gotten such a dangerous person off the street because there was going to be nothing – considering what he did in this case - that would have stopped him from doing the same thing again if he did the same type of crime," said Capt Dozier.
During a police briefing Wednesday morning, Dozier wouldn't say what was stolen.
Investigators say they don't know why El-Merkabaoui was killed.
"What's been so frustrating about this investigation is the why. It didn't have to happen like it did. If the motive is to get money, property – the victim was fully compliant...would have – in the past he has been the victim of a robbery, he's complied, given the suspects what they wanted," Capt Dozier said. "That's been the frustrating – we don't know why it ended up the way it did. It didn't have to be that way but again it just speaks to the cold-bloodedness of this suspect."
Police say they're still trying to determine the relationship between the two suspects, They say "there's nothing to indicate that there's any relationship (between victims and suspects) prior to that would have led to this."
Investigators say the case was solved because of police work along with help from the public.
"The community, the public – we were able to get information that was relevant and we were able to use in developing this case. I will say that" said Capt Dozier.
Officers haven't said if someone will receive the $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the suspects.
Detectives were requesting the public's assistance in identifying five witnesses in connection with the deadly shooting.
Detectives say a customer who arrived at the store on Westinghouse Boulevard shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday found El-Merkabaoui's body.
"We do have surveillance of what occurred inside the store, so it's very helpful to us," Capt Dozier said. "It's a tool we're using to follow up on leads and hopefully it can be instrumental in helping solve this murder."
At a press conference on Thursday, police released a photo one of the suspected shooters.
"That's the perfect descriptor - this is cold-blooded," Capt Dozier said. "Usually robbers - their goal is to get money from the store for whatever reason. If the clerks comply, then that's what happens. That's what we see for the vast majority of the crime – for robberies."
On Wednesday, the Fort Mill Police Department said Lockhart and Ford were reportedly involved in an attempted armed robbery at a China East restaurant on Highway 160 East on Nov. 29.
Police say the pair reportedly dressed in dark clothing and wore masks and gloves during the incident. The pair allegedly attempted to demand money from an employee while several customers and another employee ran out the front door, according to police.
The men then reportedly fled from the scene in a light colored vehicle after seeing an employee outside of the business using a cellphone, officers said. The men have arrest warrants for the charges of armed robbery and criminal conspiracy in connection with this incident, police say.
No employees or customers were injured during the attempted robbery.
Lockhart had a court appearance Wednesday afternoon. Ford appeared in court Thursday and was appointed an attorney. He is expected in court for a bond hearing on Jan. 4 and a probable cause hearing on Jan.9.
Court officials say Ford is also expected in court Jan. 2 for the charge of being a fugitive from another state.