Mississippi Gas station owner shot by “Scream” killer

This story in the Mississippi Clarion Ledger is disturbing on several levels. The first is the personal story:

After several years, Vinod Taneja was to be reunited with his wife Monday night at Jackson International Airport after years of being apart.

Taneja, 56, had come alone to the United States from the couple’s home in northern India to make a life for them.

He opened Highway 80 Mini Mart in south Jackson a few months ago and was the store’s only employee.

But about two hours before his wife’s flight was scheduled to arrive at 10:30 p.m., Taneja was shot and killed at his store at 5049 U.S. 80 West.

“He wanted to make a home here,” said Hitesh Desai of the India Association of Mississippi. “The fact that his wife came here under these circumstances is demoralizing.

As if the cruel fate of that in itself isn’t sad enough, the circumstances of his death take a bizarre twist:

No one has been arrested, and a motive has not been established in Taneja’s death, said Jackson police spokesman Robert Graham.

A man wearing a “Scream” mask and dark clothes came in the store and shot Taneja, Graham said.

The mask and a piece of clothing were found in trash near the store, police said.

Apparently this isn’t the first incident, but one in a string, that could very well be unrelated, but has nevertheless instilled a greater anxiety in the South Asian gas station and convenience store community (around 65 owners) in Jackson, Mississippi. The community is also quick to point out a series of murders six years ago:

About six years ago, fear gripped the city’s Indian community after a series of killings involving Indian merchants.

Homicides and other types of violence against Indians led to the formation of the Indian Association for Crime Victims of Mississippi.

Desai said nothing has come of the organization though.

“We are contributing citizens who pay taxes and abide by the law,” he said. “I guess there is a lack of respect for us. This just can’t go on anymore.”

The Jackson Police tried to quell any speculation of a pattern by stating the following:

department statistics aren’t showing an increase in crime involving Indian-owned businesses. He said detectives diligently are handling the case as they would for anyone.

“Any homicide investigation, regardless of nationality, has the highest emphasis at the police department,” he said.

Thanks to Anji for this tip.

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