Authorities said the cashier, identified Wednesday by a store manager as Zarif Kelada, was confronting the teenagers on Saturday about items that they did not fully pay for at the Shell gas station in Auburn when he experienced a “major medical issue” and collapsed. Surveillance video released by the police shows the teenagers repeatedly jumping over the counter to steal from the cash register while Kelada was apparently unconscious on the ground.
According to a GoFundMe page set up for Kelada, he is in the hospital on artificial life support.
"It's heartbreaking,” Angela Sharapova, the store manager, told The Washington Post on Wednesday morning in a phone interview. “I couldn't believe my eyes. It blows my mind. It's totally unbelievable, totally unacceptable. It's inhuman. I can't even tell you how I feel about it."
Authorities said earlier this week that they have identified the teenagers, who are 13 and 17, as well as an adult who had accompanied them in the store.
Police added Wednesday that investigators have spoken with the man but that he does not seem to be associated with the teenagers. A police spokesman said that they are still searching for the boys and that once they are found, they could face charges including theft, burglary and possibly failing to render assistance to someone in need.
Authorities said in a statement that after the man and two teenagers entered the Shell station early Saturday evening, one of the teens took a pepperoni stick and started to eat it, then took another one and gave it to the other teen. When the man went to pay for his item, the cashier attempted to charge him for the pepperoni sticks as well, police said.
In the surveillance video, it appeared as though there was a dispute.
The cashier appeared to confront them, and at some point, one of the teens handed the cashier $1, police said.
The video then showed the cashier walk around the counter to talk to them — and that's when he collapsed, police said. One of the teens quickly took back the $1, hopped over the counter to steal some items and then exit the store, police said. The video showed the teens return at least twice in the moments after the incident for more merchandise and for the cash.
Sharapova, the manager, said the teenagers appeared to be stealing packs of cigarettes and a total of $178 in cash.
"Not something that's worth somebody's life,” she told The Post.
Several minutes later, another customer entered the store, saw the cashier and called 911, the authorities said.
A man who works at an area food truck told KOMO that when he realized Kelada had collapsed, he tried to contact the store's owners while other customers called for help. “If you see someone like that, you know, you try to do as much help as you can,” the man, who was not identified, told the station.
The GoFundMe for Kelada stated that he has three young children and that Wednesday was his birthday.
"Today is Zarif's birthday, and he is spending it in critical care,” it said. “He is not able to breathe on his own yet. However, he has opened his eyes a few times and even moved his foot! The doctors say this is a good sign. Please continue to keep Zarif and his family in your prayers and hearts."