A New York man was arrested Friday in connection with the fatal hit-and-run of a well-known and beloved gas station manager who investigators said was trying to stop him from leaving without paying for $22 worth of gas.
Joshua E. Roston, 33, of Baldwin, was arrested in Philadelphia on a vehicular homicide warrant out of Nassau County, according to Nassau County police officials. Though he was in the process of being extradited, he remained in the Philadelphia Jail Tuesday morning.
Roston is accused of running over Cemal "John" Dagdeviren, 59, of Levittown, the morning of Jan. 14 after Dagdeviren, who managed the Pit Stop Repair Shop in Baldwin, confronted him over payment for gas that had been pumped into the 1999 GMC Suburban Roston was driving. The slaying of the Turkish immigrant, who moved his family to the United States 25 years ago, has made international news.
The entire incident was recorded by surveillance cameras at the Pit Stop, which is a combination gas station and repair shop. Dagdeviren was also a mechanic there.
Police officials said the incident began shortly before 7:30 a.m. that morning, when the driver of the Suburban asked that an attendant fill up his SUV's gas tank at the full-service island. According to NBC News, Nassau County Detective Lt. Stephen Fitzpatrick told reporters at a news conference that the attendant became suspicious because the truck had no license plates and the driver was acting oddly.
"They stopped at $22 and asked him to pay at that time," Fitzpatrick told reporters, according to the news network. "The attendant said to pull over to the side."
The driver, who was dressed in an orange knit hat and gray sweatshirt, went inside the store to pay, but gave the clerk a fake credit card that was declined, Fitzpatrick said. He then went back into the parking lot, where Dagdeviren stepped in and confronted him.
The surveillance video, a portion of which was released by police officials, shows Dagdeviren talking with the driver as he goes back to the SUV and climbs inside. Dagdeviren appears to realize the man plans to drive off without paying and goes to the driver’s side door and knocks on the window.
See raw footage of the final moments of Cemal Dagdeviren’s life below, courtesy of Fox News.
When the man doesn’t roll the window down, Dagdeviren tries to open the door, but it appears to be locked. He hurries behind the vehicle and stands behind it as the driver begins to back up. The SUV bumps into his body.
Dagdeviren returns to the front of the vehicle after standing behind it does not stop the driver and, as the driver begins to inch forward across the parking lot, he stands directly in front of the SUV.
Dagdeviren is standing in front of the vehicle with his hands on the hood when the vehicle appears to accelerate into him.
The video released by police officials ends at that point, but investigators said Dagdeviren was run over, suffering a severe head injury.
The driver then fled the scene, investigators said, leaving Dagdeviren lying mortally wounded in the roadway. Dagdeviren was taken to South Nassau Communities Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, police officials said.
Parminder Singh, who works at a neighboring gas station, told CBS New York that he saw Dagdeviren lying on the ground and went to see what had happened.
"Does anybody's life cost $22?" Singh said. "No. It's really bad. People don't think before they commit something."
Dagdeviren’s son, Ali Dagdeviren, called his father’s killer a monster.
"If you do that to anybody for $22, you can do anything," Ali Dagdeviren, 35, told the news station.
Cemal Dagdeviren came to the United States nearly 25 years ago to provide a better future for his family, according to a GoFundMe page set up to help the Dagdeviren family lay the patriarch to rest. He and his wife have two grown sons, Ali Dagdeviren, who was recently married, and Ceyhun "Jay" Dagdeviren, who is in the academy to become a New York City firefighter. Jay Dagdeviren, 25, also volunteers as a firefighter and emergency medical technician with the Bethpage Fire Department.
"Cemal was a hardworking and kind man who will be dearly missed by his friends and family," reads the fundraising page, which exceeded its $20,000 goal by $4,000 in just seven days.
"My father worked hard for his family and never got into trouble, never even got a parking ticket," Ali Dagdeviren told Newsday. "We are in a lot of pain. This is really hard for us."
Cemal Dagdeviren’s customers paid their respects in a steady stream the day after his death. They also held a candlelight vigil in his honor that night at the station, which was closed for business.
According to Newsday, crime scene tape surrounded the station and blood stained the street where Dagdeviren died. Flowers and candles fashioned a makeshift memorial on the sidewalk, built by distraught patrons who described Dagdeviren as a good, trustworthy mechanic with a quick smile and a tendency to wave off payment for minor repairs he'd made for his customers.
“It is very sad,” Yvonne Holloway said. “He was a very hardworking man and one of the nicest people you could ever meet.”
"He would say, 'Have a good day,' and he meant it," longtime customer Liz Boylan told Newsday as she dropped off flowers. "I am upset because he was just so sweet."
A funeral was held Wednesday for Dagdeviren in the U.S., Newsday reported. Turkish news media reported a second service was held in Istanbul, where the family returned his body for burial.
Homicide detectives announced Thursday that they had tracked down the Suburban and identified Roston as the man in the orange ski hat. The SUV was impounded as evidence.
Detectives began a manhunt for Roston, who they suspected had fled the New York area. A $10,000 reward was offered for his capture, the details of which were not immediately available Tuesday.
"He knew what he was doing when he stepped on the gas and crushed that man's life and his family's life," a police official told NBC New York.
Roston has a criminal history that includes stealing gas, shoplifting and stripping vehicles for parts, the news station reported.