01/03/2013 02:15 pm ET

Michael Kozel Homicide: Slain Shop Owner's Last Words To Son Were 'They Shot Me In The Back'

A beloved Gage Park shop owner was killed Wednesday during a robbery at his automotive parts store.

Michael Kozel was shot in the back at about 5:20 p.m. at his store, Independent Mufflers Inc., in the 5600 block of South Western Avenue, reports DNAinfo Chicago. He became Chicago's fifth homicide victim of the first two days of 2013.

The father and grandfather of three tried to escape when the two men entered the shop and demanded money. ABC Chicago reported the men apparently pretended to be customers at first, discussing problems with their car with the 57-year-old shop owner.

One of two employees in the shop during the holdup was also robbed but not injured, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The victim called his son, Michael Kozel Jr., who raced over from his job to find his father being treated in an ambulance. The Sun-Times reports Kozel's last words to his son were "They shot me in the back.”

Kozel was taken to Stroger Hospital where he later died due to a severed spinal cord, reports ABC.

While police are trying to draw up descriptions of the suspect, Kozel's family remains stunned and by their own admission, "lost" following the slaying of their loved one.

Family told the Tribune that Kozel grew up off of 26th Street and lived his whole life in Chicago.

The shop owner was reportedly a "passionate" member of the low rider community, and was known to give hard-up neighbors looking for handouts work doing odd jobs in the shop. Others recalled Kozel letting cash-strapped customers pay off their balances over time, offering a fix-it first service.

Kozel's wife of 37 years, Antonia, described her husband as generous and loving, saying "He would give anyone the shirt off his back. He didn't deserve this."

Both of Kozel's children mentioned their parents' strong bond, with 30-year-old daughter Amber calling her mom and dad "best friends." Son Michael Jr. told the Sun-Times, "He had a lot of plans to travel — wherever my mom wanted to go. As long as it was with my mom, and it made her happy.”



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