Homeless man faces murder charges for slaying Queens grocery store clerk

Police officers outside the Craft Beer Lotto Cigar store in Ozone Park, Queens on Oct. 26, 2020 after a store employee was shot to death.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

An off-duty cop helped apprehend a homeless man moments after he allegedly shot a Queens convenience store clerk to death on Monday night, police reported.

Steven Cohen, 63, was booked on murder charges hours after the Oct. 26 shooting at the Craft Beer Lotto Cigar Shop at 137-02 Cross Bay Blvd. in Ozone Park.

Law enforcement sources said Cohen alleged shot Mohmediyan Tarwala, 26, following an earlier verbal dispute. Police said an off-duty police officer, identified as Officer Jason Maharaj of the 77th Precinct, at the scene managed to restrain Cohen until other police arrived.

Witnesses claimed that Cohen had been living inside a van parked near the location for several months, was mentally deranged and had tried to rob the establishment.

Police said the shooting took place at 6:15 p.m. on Monday night, when Cohen allegedly walked into the shop armed with a handgun. He then took deadly aim and opened fire on Tarwala, striking him in the stomach.

Cops said that Cohen allegedly fired a shot at a second store clerk, a 32-year-old man, but missed. 

The suspect, identified as a homeless man named Steven Cohen, allegedly lived in this van for weeks.Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Officers from the 106th Precinct and EMS units responded to the scene. Paramedics rushed Tarwala, a resident of Kissena Boulevard in Flushing, to Jamaica Hospital, where he died. 

After being restrained by Maharaj, Cohen was transferred into police custody and subsequently charged with murder, attempted murder and two counts of criminal possession of a firearm. 

The NYPD praised Maharaj’s quick actions for stopping the suspect.

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