Clerk Killed After Confrontation In Smoke Shop; Off-Duty Cop Protects Other Workers

Liz Carey

Queens, NY ( – A salesclerk in a Queens smoke shop is dead after a confrontation with a neighborhood homeless man, and an off-duty cop is being praised for saving other employees’ lives.

New York Police Department officials said Mohmediyan “Iyan” Tarwala, 26, was shot after he joined his manager at the Crossbay Express Smoke and Vape Shop to escort Steven Cohen, 63, out of the store.

Cohen, who was in the store to buy lottery tickets, lives in his nearby Honda Odyssey, police said.

According to police reports, Cohen was acting disorderly and was unwashed, so Tarwala asked him to wait outside while Tarwala got Cohen what he wanted.

Moments later, Cohen returned with a gun, opened the door and began firing, police video shows.

Tarwala was shot twice in the stomach. Witnesses told the police that Cohen then turned the gun on Tarwala’s boss, shooting at him through the plexiglass barrier. The man ducked out of the way and avoided Cohen’s bullet.

After missing the boss, Cohen turned his gun on a second clerk, but lowered it seconds later.

It was at that point that an off-duty cop, Officer Jason Maharaj, rushed at Cohen, grabbed the gun and pushed the homeless man out of the store’s door.

“Nothing short of Heroic,” NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea tweeted, attaching video of the incident with the tweet. “The moment after a man shot & killed a deli worker, off-duty NYPD Officer Maharaj, without regard for his own safety, tackled the shooter, disarmed him & held him for responding cops.

Shea said in an interview with NY 1 that Cohen was a regular at the store and often argued with the employees there.

“The individual was known to the store and would frequently come in and cause some problems,” Shea said. “It appears that there was a bit of a feud going on between the store and this individual for some time.”

Police said Cohen may have let others know of his plan prior to acting. According to police, Cohen walked into the Beer Town store across the street and told the clerk there to call 911, a witness told the New York Daily News.

“He seemed like he was in the middle of a medical emergency,” Beer Town clerk, Chris Hanlon said. “He then just walked away.”

Cohen has been charged with murder, attempted murder and criminal use of a firearm. Officials are tracing the gun to see if it has been involved in any other crimes, police said.

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