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Felon to Free Man: Store Clerk Who Faced Deportation Tells His Story

Updated: Friday, August 29 2014, 02:50 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD - He was a man just trying to protect the store where he worked, the Handy Pantry. Instead, he got slapped with a felony, thrown in jail, and faced deportation.

Free from federal custody and the threat of deportation, Ahmed Altayeb spoke exclusively with Newschannel at Nine about the charges and his experience.

Altayeb arrived in the United States in 1997 from Yemen. But until just over a week ago he feared being deported.

"He don't wants to go back home," his cousin Hamoud Hizam said, translating Altayeb's words. "He wants to stay and work and support his family."

Now he can. Altayeb was released from federal custody on Tuesday, with the threat of deportation put to rest.

Altayeb says the first thing he did was call his wife and three children.

"They was saying it is a holiday for them," Hizam explained, pausing as Altayeb added more in Arabic. "They did a party."

Altayeb was convicted of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon after he chased a shoplifter out of the store where he was working the counter.

"The guy run off with the two first bottles and run outside," Hizam explained.

Altayeb grabbed the gun under the counter on his way out, chasing the thief outside to the corner of the store.

"He fired into the air from here," Hizam said.

How many times?

"Three," Altayeb said, mimicking a pistol in the air.

Prosecutors say video only shows him running with the gun, and witnesses only heard shots. Altayeb says he was sending a message to the thief, who was known to the staff.

"You don't come back threaten me no more. You come threaten me before this day," Hizam elaborated.

Altayeb would be convicted on the weapons charges and face deportation because of it. But it turns out the charge he was convicted on, had been ruled unconstitutional months before his trial.

"It violated individuals constitutional right, that's in the Second Amendment to bear arms," explained his attorney, Brendan Bukalski.

Presented with that, the same judge who convicted Altayeb, voided the conviction on Aug. 14.

With nearly a year of his life taken up by this case, Altayeb is finally a free man, and can go back to living his life.

"He says it's justice. At the same time they take a little longer," Hizam said.

Altayeb is back in Springfield now with his family, but Hizam says he plans to give Altayeb a job over in Decatur.

Altayeb said if he's ever put in the same situation again, he'll just call the cops.

While Altayeb is off the hook from legal charges, so is the man who caused the situation. To date, prosecutors say the alleged thief remains free. Felon to Free Man: Store Clerk Who Faced Deportation Tells His Story


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