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Stoneham storeowner tosses chili pepper in would-be robber’s face

A quick-thinking Stoneham storeowner thwarted a robbery Sunday night by throwing chili pepper in the face of the man trying to rob him at gunpoint, police said.

Saadat Khan, 49, who is no stranger to robberies – having been the victim of six in the 20 years he’s owned the C-Store on Main Street – was sweeping the floor around 9:20 p.m. when he turned to find a gun pointed in his face and a man threatening to shoot if he didn’t open the register.

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“I said, ‘You’re swearing to God, and you have a gun in your hand. It doesn’t make any sense to me. If you believe in God, you shouldn’t be holding a gun at my face, so you better leave,’” Khan recalled.

The robber threatened Khan again, so the storeowner moved behind the counter as if to oblige, but instead, took some of the chili powder he keeps to put on pizza and threw it in the robber’s face. Khan proceeded to punch the man and chase him out of the store.

“I’m not a hero or anything,” he said. “I’m just a normal guy trying to do my business.”

Stoneham Police Detective Christopher Dalis said that Khan chased the robber as far as George Street before retreating and coming back to the store to call the police.

“We’re currently conducting an investigation,” Dalis said. “We have some leads that we’re actively investigating.”

Dalis also said they believe this suspect is the same man who committed five other robberies in Woburn, Winchester, Melrose, and two others in Stoneham, since Oct. 30.

The suspect is believed to be a white male in his 20s, with brown eyes, toting a black handgun and wearing all black while committing the crimes, Dalis said.

Khan said he doesn’t have a lot of money or power, but what he has is an unshakable faith in God.

“If you really trust in God, nothing can happen to you. If somebody’s trying to take my life, they can’t do that. Only God can take my life.”

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at sarah.mattero@globe.com. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremycfox@gmail.com.
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