In February 2003, Suresh Dass came to the United States looking for what many people are hopeful for in the land of opportunity: a better life.
Dass, an immigrant from the North Indian city of Kurukshetra, had held a career as an assistant professor.
After being sponsored to come to the United States by his sister, Mona Bhatia, Dass began working the graveyard shift at the 7-Eleven on Culver Drive and Deerfield Avenue.
On the morning of March 2 at around 2:20 a.m., two men walked into the store pushed Dass to the ground and reportedly beat and stabbed him to death, as shown on a two-minute surveillance video.
According to Lt. Jeff Love of the Irvine Police Department, the two men quickly ran out of the store after unsuccessfully trying to pry the cash register open.
Two security guards who happened to stop in the store’s parking lot noticed the two men running outside the store.
‘The security guards were doing paperwork when they noticed them running,’ Love said. ‘One of the guards then began running after one of the guys while the other security guard went inside the store to call the police.’
According to Love, the police department was radioed and with the help of police dogs were able to capture one suspect who was hiding in bushes surrounding a local apartment complex within a minute.
He was later identified as Travis Frazier, 21, of Irvine.
Eleven hours later, police found 20-year-old Spencer Fox of Irvine at a home in Anaheim. He was then arrested and arraigned along with Frazier on March 2.
According to Love, rumors circulating about the possibility of the incident being deemed a hate crime is unlikely.
‘This was pretty much motivated by the suspects wanting some money,’ Love said. ‘We listened to the audio portion of the police reports and there is no basis to the idea that this was a hate crime.’
Both Fox and Frazier are scheduled to appear at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach on April 14 on charges of murder, attempting to commit a crime, robbery and robbery in the first degree.
Both suspects are currently being held without bail at the Theo Lacy Facility in the city of Orange.
Meanwhile, a makeshift memorial of flowers, bouquets and cards remain outside the doors of the store with heartfelt messages from customers and local citizens of the community.
According to Love, the Irvine Police Department does not plan to increase the amount of patrolling but will rather remind officers to always keep a watchful eye.
‘We don’t plan to add any more security to what it usually is but rather encourage officers to always write reports,’ Love said.
The store, which is situated away from the main street, mainly serves local residents.
‘This place is really for neighborhood people who want to pick up a gallon of milk late at night or a cup of coffee before they go to work,’ Love said. ‘This store is not located in a place where someone driving down the main street would stop to pick up a six-pack of beer.’
According to a government guide Web site, which annually compiles and analyzes data on the safest and most dangerous cities in the United States, Irvine was ranked the 13th safest city in 2003.
‘Irvine has a very low crime rate and a very, very low homicide rate,’ Love said. ‘This past year was unfortunate but this is still something that does not occur very often.’
Previous incidents involving robbery and homicide in Irvine include the slaying of a Winchell’s Donut House clerk in the mid-1980s at a store formerly located on Walnut and Jeffrey.
Last year at the Albertsons on Culver Drive and Irvine Boulevard a store employee carried a machete into the store and killed two people.
Representatives from 7-Eleven were unavailable for comment at press time.
Despite the incident, some students have not changed their perception about Irvine’s safety.
‘Bad things happen anywhere you go,’ said Yvonne Nguyen, a third-year applied ecology major. ‘You always have to be careful no matter how safe the city is supposed to be. I wouldn’t go walking around Aldrich Park at night..’
Dass’ wife, Evelyn, and his two children, Shweta, 20, and Subodh, 21, all immigrated to the United States in July 2003.
His eldest son Sachin, 24, who was not eligible for a green card because of his age, continues to reside in India. After his father’s death, Sachin was granted an emergency visa to come to the United States.