Lee County jury reaches guilty verdict in brutal 2017 shooting of Marathon clerk

Alabama News

LEE COUNTY, Ala. (WRBL) – After an hour of deliberation on Thursday, a Lee County jury found a man guilty of robbery and attempted murder in the violent shooting of a gas station attendant in 2017.

According to officials with the Lee County District Attorney’s Office, on Thursday, De’Andre Neal was found guilty on charges of Robbery 1 and Attempted Murder in the October 2, 2017 robbery of the Marathon gas station near Hwy 280 and Columbus Parkway, in which the clerk, along with a customer were shot.

Officials say at the time of the robbery the clerk, Suleiman Alfa, and a customer were in the store, when Neal and a second robber, Eric Darden, entered the establishment armed with guns and wearing masks in an attempt to hide their identities.

During the robbery, Neal and Darden took money from both the cash register and the customer. Then, according to officials, Neal shot both Alfa and the customer.

Officials say Alfa was forced to lay on his stomach with his hands above his head following which, Neal shot him multiple times in the back.

Afla, also an ice cream truck driver well known in the community, was working at the Marathon to help pay his son’s college tuition.

When WRBL News 3 spoke to Alfa in 2017, just a few days after the shooting, he said he plead for his life while he was being shot by Neal, with his pleas falling on deaf ears. “I begged him,” Alfa said. “I said, please, I’m a 57-year-old man. There’s nothing I can do. Please. While I laid down, I begged he stop shooting. Please. I begged him for my life, but he kept shooting.”

Officials say it’s very clear Neal and Darden intended to leave the store with no witnesses to the events left alive.

According to officials, the customer suffered minor injuries and was able to call 911 to get help for Alfa, who was life flighted to Columbus for treatment. Officials credit the customer with saving Alfa’s life, saying he showed great bravery, all while suffering from his own gunshot wound. Following the shooting he was treated at EAMC.

Police arrested Neal on November 4, 2017 after he was identified as a suspect in the shooting and robbery.

The second man involved with the robbery, Eric Darden, pled guilty in the case, according to the Lee County District Attorney’s Office.

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