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Identity Of Masked Robber-Arsonist Surprises Store Owner

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Thomas Hughes Jr. (Chicago Police Department)

Thomas Hughes Jr. (Chicago Police Department)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – A masked man tried to rob a Morgan Park neighborhood store this week — not with a gun or a knife, but a can of gasoline.

Police say he doused the place and some of its workers with fuel, and then threatened to set it all on fire. But the owner, his nephew and a security guard stopped him.

That’s when the true shock — and disappointment — set in, CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman reports.

A day on the job at Morgan Park Food turned nasty Thursday afternoon when the masked man walked in with a gas can. He started to pour gasoline all over the shop and threw it on people inside.

“He said ‘This is a stick up, give me the money,’ and then he took a lighter and said, ‘Give me the money,’” owner Haytham “Steve” El-Zeibaq said.

Store operators say the man was ready to set fire to the place if they didn’t hand over the cash.

The register was knocked to the floor. When the robber went to get the money, his intended victims tackled him.

News traveled fast about the incident, upsetting customers.

“Oh, my God. I was really, really upset because these are good people, nice people. They help anyone who comes in,” customer Lillian Holmes said.

It turns out, the owners say, they previously helped the man police arrested. The suspect’s name is Thomas Hughes Jr.

“Sometimes he says ‘I’m hungry.’ I give him some food for free,” El-Zeibaq said.

The owner says his customers are like his family. They call him “Steve.” He said he would have given the suspect anything he wanted.

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