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How Fresno County deputies found a Madera County murder suspect

Authorities say Modesto man shot and killed Fresno State student Dharam Jassar

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. - The man accused of murdering a 20-year-old store clerk is Armitraj Singh Athwal. Athwal is behind bars but authorities say his accomplice is still on the loose. The Madera County Sheriff's Office says the victim is Dharampreet Singh Jassar. Jassar was shot to death on Monday night while closing up at The Tackle Box in Madera Acres.

Athwal's bail is set at a little more than $1.2 million. He'll be transferred from the Fresno County jail to the Madera County Jail. Many longtime customers are relieved but also heartbroken Dharam Jassar is gone. 

The entrance to The Tackle Box is usually a point of passage. But now so many stop here wondering why a young man known as "Veer" is dead.

"I automatically knew who it was because he's usually the only one here at night," said Diane Luna who is a longtime customer.

Luna says her heart broke when she learned a masked robber shot Dharam Jassar on Monday night. Bullet holes remain around the cash register. The store owner hired Jassar a few months ago and says the Fresno State student's kindness stood out.

"That's why everybody misses him because he was so cheerful. Always smiling and respectful to everyone," said Pete Nijjar, owner of The Tackle Box.

Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney says the two suspects stole cash and cigarettes before splitting up.

"They arrived together so at some point they had to have separated because when the Fresno County Sheriff's deputy contacted, there was only one person in or around the vehicle," said Varney.

That person is 21-year-old Armitraj Athwal of Modesto. Deputies found him in a Toyota pickup truck off the side of Highway 145 near Kerman just after midnight Tuesday. They discovered two hand guns and drugs in the car. Sergeant David Rippe sof the Fresno County Sheriff's Office says Athwal smelled like alcohol and had no shoes on.

"There was a blue bandana that had been in his back pocket. The deputy remembered that blue bandana from the video," said Rippe.

After seeing reports of the deadly robbery, the deputy realized who he may have arrested. Investigators believe the man masked by a blue bandana and no shoes on his feet is Athwal. Luna says her husband shops at The Tackle Box almost every night, making her emotional to imagine her worst nightmare.

"It was kind of scary for me because my husband could have been in the store around the same time when everything was happening," said Luna.

If you have any information on who the second suspect is, please call Crime Stoppers at 498-STOP.


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