Thieves caught robbing Lauderhill smoke shop, assaulting clerk

LAUDERHILL, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida store clerk is speaking out one month after, police said, robbers rushed into a Lauderhill smoke shop and severely beat him before taking off with hundreds of dollars in cash and items.

Newly released surveillance video captured the violent robbery that, investigators said, took place June 19 at Smoke Time, located along North University Drive, near Commercial Boulevard, in Lauderhill.

Store clerk Amir Zandani, who has since returned to work, said he is counting his blessings after the brutal beating that, he said, took place just before closing the store for the night.

Video released by police showed two men rushing in with guns drawn. “They rushed in while I had two customers in the store,” said shop owner Reef Lakhani.

One of the subjects is seen holding down a customer as Zandani emptied the register. “We were there for like two minutes and then, next thing you know, two guys just come up behind me, and I had a gun to my head, basically,” said customer Ludimilla Gomes.

“They were both wearing hoods with bandannas over their faces,” said Lakhani.

Moments later, the other subject is seen making his way around the counter to join the clerk. “When the first guy pointed the gun, I was [thinking], ‘If something’s going to happen, it’s going to happen,'” said Zandani.

One of the robbers stood over Gomes and used his body weight to keep her in place. Once Zandani handed the cash from the register, one of the robbers kept the gun pointed at Gomes’ head.

“I kept my eyes closed looking at the floor, and he kept the gun at my head, basically,” she said.

“[The robber who pointed the gun at me] was pretty young, but I didn’t think he was going to shoot me because he was kind of looking scared, too,” said Zandani.

But that was just the beginning of the terrifying ordeal. The masked man seen wearing a camo hoodie came behind the counter and demanded more money.

In a split second, he unleashed blow after blow using the back of the gun. “He just started hitting me,” said Zandani.

“He got six staples, I believe, in his head on two different sides. They assaulted him pretty badly,” said Lakhani.

The armed robber appeared to pistol-whip the clerk at least five times before the pair took off. “When he couldn’t find more money, he just came and hit me and took off,” said Zandani.

The robbers got away with $800 in cash, along with other items and Gomes’ wallet.

The victims were relieved that the situation did not turn deadly. “I honestly thought he was going to pull the trigger before they left. It’s still really shocking,” said Gomes. “Sometimes, I think about it, and it’s like, it could happen to anybody. It was like a split second.”

“I didn’t want to say anything or try to make any move, because if I do something and because of me anybody else gets hurt, you know, it’s not worth it over the money,” said Zandani.

The robbers remain at large.

If you have any information on their whereabouts, call Broward County Crime Stoppers at 954-493-TIPS. Remember, you can always remain anonymous, and you may be eligible for a $3,000 reward.

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