Muffler Store Owner Killed in Robbery

Man shot by two men pretending to be customers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Michael Kozel operated the shop for more than 20 years, opening early and closing late in the day. Emily Florez reports.

    Police are looking for two men who shot and killed the owner of a Southwest Side business owner Wednesday night.

    Investigators say two men walked into Independent Muffler Shop, at 5654 S. Western Ave., shortly before 5:30 p.m. and pretended to be customers.

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    The men attempted to rob the owner, 57-year-old Michael Kozel, and an employee, according to authorities. Kozel was shot in the back and died a few hours later at a local hospital. The employee was not injured.

    "The last thing my dad told my brother was, 'They shot me.' That's the last thing my brother has," the victim's daughter, Amber Kozel, recalled Thursday.

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    She said her father operated the shop for more than 20 years, opening early and closing late in the day.

    "He'd give you the shirt off his back. They didn't have to do this. If they needed money he would have given them a job. There was really no point in killing him," said Kozel. "He had a rough exterior but he had a heart of gold."

    She said her father was a quiet, warm man who will be remembered for his Santa Claus-like qualities.

    "He had the white beard and the big belly, and kids, whenever they saw him, they'd be just in awe. Like, 'That's Santa!' ... "They wouldn't go near him but they were [awestruck]. It was something to see. It was awesome."

    Michael Kozel leaves behind his two children, three grandchildren and a wife to whom he was married for more than 30 years.

    "They were very happy. My mom lost her best friend," Amber Kozel said.

    Neighbor Andre Arrington said he was shocked to hear of the shooting and echoed the sentiments of others.

    "He's a nice guy. Family's nice, wife is nice, everybody was nice people," said Arrington. "It's senseless. Not even worth it. I don't get it."

    Kozel's death marks the fifth homicide of the year in Chicago. Regarding that fact, Amber Kozel had a message for her father's killers and for all those wielding guns.

    "Stop it. There's no point. One second can ruin so many people's lives. It needs to stop," she said.

    Authorities said they're looking for two people involved in the incident. Both were black males believed to be in their late teens or early 20s. One was wearing a black jacket. The other was wearing a light blue windbreaker with a white stripe, a black stocking cap and black pants, according to authorities.

    Anyone with information on the shooting should contact police.