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Back machete-wielding bodega owner

Woodhaven residents say the daring — and bloody — daylight bodega holdup that resulted in a trip to the hospital for the suspect will not keep them off the community’s streets.
The attempted robbery of Erick Grocery on Wednesday, November 7 made citywide news in large part because the storeowner, 50-year-old Johan Marten, bravely defended himself with a machete, severing his attacker’s ear and finger. The would-be robber, 27-year-old Omar Rodriguez, fired two shots from a 40-caliber Springfield semi-automatic handgun during the scuffle. Neither shot hit Marten.
On top of severed body parts, Rodriguez may be looking at jail time. The Brooklyn resident is charged with attempted murder, robbery and criminal possession of a weapon.
Perhaps most alarmingly, the incident occurred shortly before 5 p.m. - an hour when almost anyone could have been in the store.
That, coupled with memories of the nearly 20 bodegas robbed this past summer — one of which resulted in the murder of a father of seven — gives reason for concern in Woodhaven.
But if you ask locals, concern is barely on the radar.
“I’m so accustomed to crime happening everywhere,” said Evelyn Devlin, who has lived in Woodhaven for 34 years. “I just try to avoid dangerous situations.”
Devlin acknowledged that the circumstances of the most recent holdup, which occurred on 77th Street, in a residential section of town, would not be considered dangerous to most locals. But being aware of one’s surroundings, she said, is all anyone can do.
“I’m just as aware in the morning and afternoon hours as I am in the evenings,” she said. “You could walk into any store and have this happen. It’s sad that the world has come to this, but it has.”
Lucille Greco, who lives on the Richmond Hill-Woodhaven border, feels crime has been more prevalent in Woodhaven lately. Still, she said, “I’m not looking over my shoulder.”
“God is allowing these things to happen, and they’ll happen anywhere,” added Woodhaven resident Dorothy Pantaleo. “You can’t escape it anywhere.”
Even bodega workers are unconcerned.
“The police along Jamaica Avenue do a good job,” said Gobran Alqotini of Woodhaven Deli and Grocery, at 85-01 Jamaica Avenue.
Even though the store is open 24 hours, Alqotini said he remains calm. When asked if he kept any form of self-defense behind the counter, he held up a knife he uses to cut meat.
“Just this,” he said, laughing.
Alqotini’s theory is that certain bodegas are repeated targets, mostly due to location.
“We’ve never been a target before, so I don’t think we will be in the future,” he said.
His point is well taken.
Erick Grocery has been hit at least twice before, witnesses said. According to police reports, some of the bodegas hit over the summer had also been hit in the past.
Locals agree that the machete-wielding Marten acted in the right manner.
“He should get a couple more machetes, and other store owners should use him as an example,” said Woodhaven resident Jaye Garcia. “After what happened, I think it’s an example to robbers not to mess around here.”

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