Man held without bond in killing of Albany Park store owner

Chicago Sun-Times,  Oct 14, 2003  by Frank Main

When Joe Harrington went looking for a store to rob, he stopped at Chicago T-Shirt Wholesale Retail because of all the merchandise in the window, police say.

The 22-year-old Gangster Disciple saw only one person working in the store Friday afternoon in the 3400 block of West Lawrence and knew it would be hard for anyone on the street to see what he was planning to do next, said Chicago police Sgt. John Garrido of Area 5 detective headquarters at Grand and Central.

Harrington allegedly pulled out a pistol and demanded money from the store owner, Najih A. Ihmud. He wrapped duct tape around Ihmud's head. But when Ihmud struggled, Harrington struck him in the head and face with the gun. Then he fatally shot him in the chest, Garrido said.

Harrington, on parole for aggravated battery to harm a merchant, allegedly fled in a getaway car that police now have. Based on a tip from the community, officers with the Albany Park police district's gang team arrested Harrington on Saturday.

Harrington led police to the murder weapon, a .380-caliber Jennings handgun, and gave a videotaped statement implicating himself in the killing, Garrido said. He was charged late Sunday with murder and robbery. On Monday, he was ordered held without bond.

Police are searching for two possible accomplices.

"They could be witnesses or offenders," Garrido said, adding that he did not want to give more details about the crime until they are in custody.

Harrington, of the 5100 block of North Avers, was paroled in April on a 2002 aggravated battery conviction and has been arrested at least seven other times, officials said. He has a Gangster Disciples tattoo on his right leg, prison records show.

Ihmud, 30, immigrated from the West Bank in the Middle East and was a naturalized U.S. citizen. He is survived by a wife, a daughter and three sons. He moved to Chicago when he was 15, married in 1995 and bought the store about seven months ago. He was buried Sunday.

"This was a killing in cold blood for a few dollars -- a senseless crime," said an uncle, Mahmoud Ihmoud. "Since he is a previous criminal, we would like to see him get the punishment he deserves."

Ihmoud also said he was upset he and other family members did not know about Harrington's arrest until they learned about it in the news Monday.