By Jano Tantongco
Gas station attendant Birol Bayark was pumping gas at pump No. 3 at USA Gas Station in Huntington Station at around 9:45 p.m. Monday when he was approached by a man dressed in all black, including a black mask.
The man called out “Yo!” to Bayark, and immediately started to punch him. Bayark fought back, but then the attacker pulled out a gun and shot him in the left leg. The bullet went through his flesh and also hit his right foot.
“He told me, ‘You give me everything,’” a weary Bayark said over the phone from his hospital bed in Huntington Hospital on Jan. 12. The 35-year-old has been working at the gas station, located 1290 New York Ave., for more than two years.
Wounded, Bayark said he handed over $800, his cell phone and his wallet, and then the robber fled on foot, he said.
Seeing the attacker wielding a gun, a customer in his car sped away, breaking a pump, police said. Some gas leaked, but the automatic stop function kicked in, according another employee at the gas station.
Bayark, a native of Turkey who lives in Huntington, was then transported to Huntington Hospital for treatment. He said he will try to go back to work in a month or so, but he is unsure if he will stay at that particular gas station.
“I know that this place is dangerous because I work in the night,” said Bayark.
The suspect was described by police as a male with a thin build, approximately 6 feet tall.
A customer identifying himself only as Charles, who said he lives around the corner, was speaking with a pump attendant about what had happened.
“I knew the guy who actually got shot… I come up here a lot,” said Charles, who said he has been coming to this gas station for a couple of years. “I was kind of shocked to hear that it happened right here.”
June Margolin, president of the Huntington Matters civic organization, said she first learned about a potential shooting at the gas station via Facebook. Next, she called the Second Precinct desk sergeant to confirm there was an armed robber on the loose.
Then, at 10:46 p.m., just an hour after the incident occurred, she posted this on the Huntington Matters Facebook page, “ALERT: ACTIVE POLICE CHASE HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. Stay inside. Keep Your lights on, and if you see or hear anything unusual, call 911 IMMEDIATELY.”
Police issued a Nixle email alert to community members at 7 a.m. the next day, which included more comprehensive information, including the description of the robber.
“It was terrifying, of course. I actually have to give major recognition to that attendant… he refused to comply with the robber,” Margolin said. “You can’t do this in Huntington Station and get away with it.”
Huntington Station resident Matt Harris, 59, has lived in the area since 1981. Attending the Second Precinct community meeting on Jan. 13, he voiced his concern over having an armed robber on the loose.
“When you’re dealing with an active shooter, especially one that’s on foot, which unfortunately Nixle can’t deal with, there needs to be a mechanism that will let people know what’s going on,” he said.
Suffolk police said they avoid sending Nixle alerts during overnight hours following several complaints.
“If police believe people shouldn’t leave their homes, they go door to door to advise residents,” police said in a statement.