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1979 fugitive arrested at O’Hare

AtYousef El Ammouri / phofrom Cook County Sheriff's office

Ata Yousef El Ammouri / photo from Cook County Sheriff's office

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Updated: July 10, 2013 6:50AM

n 1979, Chicago shop owner Ata Yousef El Ammouri was accused of shooting and killing a man for stealing a can of Miller Lite beer from his store on the city’s South Side.

El Ammouri fled the country to avoid prosecution and was a free man for more than 30 years until he was arrested Friday after landing at O’Hare Airport from Jordan, where he’s been living, authorities said.

He was returning to Chicago to attend a graduation, authorities said.

El Ammouri, 65, was taken into custody on warrants for murder and jumping bail, according to the Cook County sheriff’s office.

El Ammouri is accused of killing 31-year-old Joe Harris on July 22, 1979, after Harris walked out of El Ammouri’s Grocery and Liquor store in the 500 block of east 67th Street without paying for a can of Miller Lite, authorities said.

He posted $100,000 bail when he was charged in 1979 and was released, then disappeared.

On Saturday, a Cook County judge ordered El Ammouri held without bail.

Prosecutors said Saturday that two witnesses saw Harris leave El Ammouri’s store, beer in hand, around 11 a.m. on that July day in 1979. As Harris walked to a bus stop, El Ammouri came out of the store with a gun in hand, the witnesses told authorities.

They said Harris threw the can of beer across the street into a vacant lot, and he and El Ammouri started arguing. El Ammouri shot Harris in the head and ran back into the store, telling the police that Harris had stabbed him and tried to rob him, prosecutors said.

But one witnesses said El Ammouri had cut marks on his hands that weren’t there when he fired his weapon.

Officers said they found El Ammouri holding a .38 revolver with four live rounds and one fired round in the cylinder.

“I shot him, he tried to rob me,” prosecutors said El Ammouri told the police.

He showed the officers lacerations on his stomach that didn’t match the “puncture”-type holes in his shirt, prosecutors said. The knife El Ammouri said Harris used matched a set of knives located in the rear of the store, according to prosecutors. They said El Ammouri told police Harris pulled a knife and demanded cash, pushing the knife to his side, so he shot him. He denied that Harris stole beer, but officers found a six-pack of Miller Lite missing one can, prosecutors said.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said El Ammouri’s capture

“should send a message that the simple passage of time does not eradicate our commitment to bringing fugitives to justice.”

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