CLINTON TWP. (WWJ) – A Macomb County business owner is dead and his killer is on the loose after a shootout at a party store.

The situation unfolded around 11:30 p.m. Thursday when a masked man walked into Bernie’s Market on Garfield Road, just north of 17 Mile Road in Clinton Township.

When the man started waving a gun around, the store owner — identified in reports as Emil Salam — reached for his own weapon.

Emil Salam (courtesy photo/WJBK)

Emil Salam (courtesy photo/WJBK)

“There was an attempted robbery; there was an exchange of gunfire between the suspect and the owner … resulting in the death of the party store owner,” Clinton Township Police Lt. Anthony Greene told WWJ’s Mike Campbell.

Police responding to a burglar alarm quickly arrived on the scene, but the suspect was nowhere in sight. Officers found Salam dead inside the store. They also found a trail of blood left by the suspect as he fled the scene, apparently in a car that was parked behind the building.

Greene said at least one other person — believed to be one of Salam’s relatives — was in the store when the shooting took place, although it’s unclear how much they witnessed. Investigators are now reviewing possible surveillance footage of the incident.

“Emil was top-of the-line,” one frequent customer said. “You never saw him mad, he was always smiling every time you walk in. I’m surprised it happened to him because he’s always working with his family here anyways — his wife or his kids.”

The suspect remains on the loose. Reports describe him as 5-foot-10 to 6-feet tall with a stocky build.

The store was robbed back in January, but police aren’t sure if the incidents are connected.

Anyone with information on the incident is urged to contact police at 586-493-7803.

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