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Police seeking motive after arrests made in murder of 7-Eleven clerk

CONCORD, N.C. — Two men have been charged in connection with the shooting death of a southwest Charlotte convenience store clerk.

[RELATED: No arrests after customers find gas station worker shot to death]

Geoffrey Ford, 44, and Treyvonte Lockhart, 29, are charged with murder in the slaying of 55-year-old Khaled Elmerkabaoui, who was gunned down at the 7-Eleven on Westinghouse Boulevard on Dec. 9.

(Treyvonte Lockhart / Geoffrey Ford)

Capt. Chris Dozier, with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, said in a Wednesday press conference that Ford is believed to be the gunman in Elmerkabaoui's murder, and that Lockhart drove the getaway car.

Dozier said there is no indication that Elmerkabaoui knew the two men, and added that he had been the victim of a previous robbery in the same store.

"He enjoyed doing what he did and interacting with people," Dozier said. "For his life to end this way is just tragic."

Detectives said Elmerkabaoui was completely cooperative and offered no resistance during the robbery, but he was shot anyway.

[RELATED: Suspect picture released, $15K reward offered in clerk's shooting death]

Detectives told Channel 9 that they found Ford around 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, driving in a neighborhood near Carmel Road and Quail Hollow.

Authorities said that when they tried to pull him over, he jumped out of the vehicle and ran. Police had the entrance to the Quail Valley on Carmel apartments on Quail Hollow Road blocked as officers rushed to set up a perimeter, and said they were able to take Ford into custody a short time later.

Tuesday morning around 8 a.m., police spotted Lockhart driving the SUV they said was used during the crime, and tried to pull him over in south Charlotte, but he took off, according to police.

Police said they chased the silver SUV into Concord, at which point Lockhart abandoned the vehicle and ran away.

Chopper 9 SkyZoom flew over the scene, where officers towed the SUV from an apartment complex.

“How far can you get on foot? Unless he’s getting help,” Darren James, who has lived in the Concord neighborhood for 15 years, said.

Carl Furr Elementary is next to the apartment complex and was on lockdown during the search as a precaution.

“He could be in this neighborhood, you know?” neighbor Mia Simmons said. “He could be hiding out anywhere. Oh, my goodness, it’s really, really scary.”

Later in the day, police said they spotted Lockhart near Interstate 85 and Sugar Creek Road and took him into custody.

During the course of their investigation, officers released photos of several witnesses with whom they needed to speak. They credited those witnesses, rather than the $15,000 reward, for ultimately turning the tide on the investigation.

"I believe the surveillance photographs were instrumental, but I think the motivation was to do the right thing rather than to get a monetary reward,” Dozier said.

Both Lockhart and Ford are in the Mecklenburg County Jail and face murder and robbery charges. Police said they are not looking for any other suspects.

On Wednesday, detectives with the Fort Mill Police Department told Channel 9 that Lockhart and Ford were responsible for an armed robbery last month at a Chinese restaurant.

Police said the men entered the China East restaurant on Nov. 29 through an open back door. The pair were wearing dark clothing and masks, police said, and were carrying handguns and demanded money.

An employee and several customers were able to run out of the restaurant through the front door, officials said, and the suspects fled without obtaining any cash.

Nobody was hurt in that crime, police said.

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