'They know what they did': Father, food truck owner targeted in deadly robbery, police say

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor

HOUSTON - A father and owner of a food truck was robbed, shot and killed at a Corner Store in southwest Houston, police said.

The shooting happened around midnight Thursday at the store on South Post Oak and Willomine Way.

Police said the 49-year-old man was leaving the Corner Store when he was ambushed by four men who robbed the man before firing multiple shots.

Authorities initially identified his as Martin Ayala, but later said family members identified him as Enrique Ramirez Ayala.

One bullet hit Ayala in the chest, killing him, authorities said.

Family members told authorities Ayala was "a good, honest, hardworking individual in the community here” and was known to carry money because he ran a taco truck called Taqueria Ayala.

Authorities believe that painted a target on Ayala’s back and the men had been watching his routine ahead of the deadly robbery. 

The manager of the Corner Store, Alex Ali, said Ayala was a pillar and a cornerstone in the community who donated money, time and food to those who needed it.

He said Ayala was also known to carry lots of cash.

“When he pulls out the money, he always has $700 or $800 in his pocket,” Ali said.

Ali was the last person to see Ayala alive and said he can’t believe what happened.

“They were arguing about something at first, then they started pushing (Ayala),” Ali said. “I walked outside (and) tried to wake him up, but he passed within, I think, 30 seconds.”

Ali said Ayala was always willing to help someone and was a good man. 

“He’s a gentleman (and) a nice person. (He) always helped the community’s people," Ali said.

According to family members, Ayala had been preparing to celebrate father's day and his daughter's birthday, but now the family will planning a funeral instead. 

“He invited me to go to his daughter’s birthday (Saturday), I see that's all got canceled now,” said friend, Oscar Lazo. Ayala and Lazo both operated food trucks.

Friday afternoon, Ayala’s truck sits untouched.

“He used to come and pick up his truck at 7 a.m. every day," Lazo said. "Now it’s sitting here doing nothing."

Authorities are working to learn more details about the shooting and the men involved in hopes of finding clues that could lead to an arrest. 

"They know what they did. Their families are gonna know what they did," detectives said. "They're gonna talk about this, and if these individuals talk to you about it, tell you what they did, come forward because they took a good, honest, innocent man's life tonight."

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

A GoFundMe was created to cover Ayala's funeral expenses. To donate, click here.

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