Police say 21-year-old Hubbard man kidnapped a city store owner at gunpoint and threatened to kill her

by ocean

A Portland store owner who was kidnapped at gunpoint by a customer who threatened to kill her was able to get away but kept the encounter quiet for months out of fear.

The woman business owner reported the crime to police when the customer returned to her store in February, court documents say.

Portland police on Wednesday arrested  Armiyas M. Ashenafi, 21, and accused him of multiple counts of first-degree robbery with a firearm, second-degree robbery with a firearm, unlawful use of a weapon with a firearm, first-degree kidnapping and coercion with a firearm. He was arraigned this afternoon in Multnomah County Circuit Court.

Ermias ashenaf

Ermias M. Ashenafi

According to police, the incident occurred Dec. 23, 2009, when the owner of a food store on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. agreed to give a customer a ride to the hospital. The customer claimed his brother had been stabbed, but then redirected the store owner to Lloyd Center.

When they arrived at the mall’s parking garage, Ashenafi is accused of locking the car doors, pulling a silver pistol from his waist, pointing it at the driver and saying, “Now it’s time for me to kill you.”

The woman pleaded with him not to, and asked him why he was intent on killing her. Ashenafi claimed that her ex-husband in Ethiopia had promised him $20,000 to kill her, the woman told police, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in court.

The woman does have an ex-husband in Ethiopia, but didn’t think he had $20,000. She urged Ashenafi to allow her to get back to the store. They switched places in the car, and Ashenafi drove, taking her to Northwest Portland’s industrial area, and to a bank, where he ordered her to withdraw money from an ATM. After several failed attempts because the woman was so nervous and couldn’t remember her PIN, she ended up withdrawing $600 in cash from a drive-up teller window.

She said Ashenafi made her promise she wouldn’t tell anyone, threatening to kill her and kidnap her daughter if she did. He drove her to the intersection of Northeast Russell Street and Rodney Avenue, where he gave her a hug and got out of the car. The woman didn’t tell police until Ashenafi returned to her business on Feb. 10.

Ashenafi, in a statement to a detective, claimed the woman was a scorned lover who was jealous he was seeing another woman and they had stayed routinely at a Lake Oswego hotel during their affair.  A Portland detective, though, determined that neither Ashenafi or the woman were ever seen at the specified hotel, the affidavit says.

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