RIVERSIDE, MO (KCTV) -- A murder in Riverside that sent police to a Quik Trip has created a wave of grief for an entire immigrant community.
The Quik Trip at NW Gateway Avenue and NW Vivion Road sits diagonally across from the popular Corner Cafe restaurant. For more than five hours Saturday afternoon, the typically busy gas station and convenience store was surrounded by crime tape.
Police have identified the victim as 39-year-old Tariku Fite. Friends said he lived at an apartment complex just a five-minute walk from the QT and was an advocate for immigrants from his native Ethiopia.
“He lived here locally, went to a church just down the road, a very well-loved member of the community,” said Riverside Police Det. Shaun Zufelt.
Police said they got a 911 call at about 12:40pm about someone who’d been shot. They found Fite dead outside his Jeep by one of the gas pumps.
By mid-afternoon people began gathering outside the gas station, some audibly sobbing.
An even larger group, nearly 50 people, gathered outside the police station, hoping for information, wailing in shared grief. They weren’t blood family, but like family, people who knew Fite from their Ethiopian church in Riverside.
“He had a very strong connection to the Ethiopian community, where he’d come from. There were a lot of people who came out in support,” said Zufelt. “We had a lot of people out here expressing their grief, expressing their loss. So he was obviously very well cared for and loved.”
The pastor at Ebenezer Oromo Evangelical Church said Fite made it his mission to help newer immigrants find work and adapt to the new culture around them.
By nightfall, a man whom police initially called a person of interest being questioned, became “a suspect in custody.”
Police are no longer seeking tips from the public and say they will be forwarding their evidence to the Platte County Prosecutor’s Office. They would not disclose any further information about the evidence they gathered and said from this point forward, any additional information will have to come from the prosecutor’s office. It is likely more information will become public if and when charges are filed. That could happen as soon as Sunday.
The church congregation is now working to raise the funds needed to send Fite’s body back to Ethiopia.
Zufelt said murder is rare in Riverside, which has a population of about 3,000 people. He estimated an average of one homicide per year and said the city had none this year prior to Saturday’s killing.