By Laura Figueroa, McClatchy Newspapers
MIAMI — Hector Vichot died over $1.25.
That’s what was in his back pocket when he was gunned down while walking to his nightshift job at Wal-Mart last week.
Vichot, 53, lived long enough to tell police how the two young men had come upon him along a dark stretch of road looking for a quick steal, and shot him in the back.
”He posed no threat to them,” said Miami-Dade Police Spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta. “They cowardly shot a man in the back as he was running away.”
His killers left Vichot’s wallet intact.
Vichot, who hailed from the Santiago de las Vegas neighborhood of Havana, had worked 12 years on a contracting job, laying down cable wires. But two years ago he was laid off in the wake of the recession.
Losing his livelihood was tough on Vichot, his brother said, so when he found a part-time opening last year as a maintenance worker at Wal-Mart, he jumped at the opportunity.
Normally, he rides into work with a friend. But that morning, the colleague called and said he couldn’t take him.
Vichot told his friend not to worry, he’d walk the seven or so blocks to the 24-hour mega store located in Hialeah, Fla.
But moments after leaving his rental efficiency around 9 p.m. Dec. 16, two men came up to Vichot speaking English. The Cuban native struggled to understand what they were saying.
“He only understood that they were saying something about ‘money,’” said his brother, Pedro Vichot.
Sensing he was in danger, Vichot decided to run away.
“They shot at him three times, but it only took one bullet to kill my brother,” Pedro Vichot said.
Among the first to arrive on the crime scene was a Miami-Dade Police officer who often patrols the Wal-Mart parking lot and recognized the affable Vichot.
Vichot was airlifted to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, but his condition worsened from the loss of blood.
When doctors came out to speak to his family, it only took two words for Pedro Vichot to know his only brother was dead.
”They said ‘we did,’” Vichot recounted. “After that point I didn’t hear anything else … I watch enough of those TV shows to know that ‘we did’ means they did everything they could, but couldn’t save the person.”
Though married and divorced twice — once in Cuba and once in Miami — Vichot remained close to his three children: son Hector Vichot, 22; daughter Yusmila, 32, both living in Cuba; and his 14-year-old son Christopher Vichot who lives in Miami.
His brother has since moved all of Vichot’s belongings into a closet in his own home. A clothing rack illustrates how Vichot took pride in his possessions he worked so hard for. His jeans were crisply ironed, and dress shirts were all hung according to color. Leather shoes were polished and bed sheets were neatly folded and stacked.
Distraught over his brother’s death, Pedro Vichot took down his Christmas tree just days before his brother’s funeral Wednesday.
Instead, he prominently displays in his living room a picture of his brother, given to him by Wal-Mart employees with the message : “God bless your soul, Hector Vichot.”
”Hector was a hard working guy known for his fun, upbeat personality and the way he incorporated a little dancing into his work,” night shift manager Frank Medina wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Herald. “He was a dear friend who touched our lives in so many ways.”