Gitem Demissie, 41, was killed by a masked gunman as he was preparing to shut down the Ibex Ethiopian Bar & Restaurant around midnight, according to police. A witness said the gunman, clad in a long-sleeved black shirt and black jeans, approached Gitem and shot him multiple times.
The shooter then fled. Police are investigating what they described as the targeted killing of the owner of an Ethiopian restaurant on Murfreesboro Pike in south Nashville. He was first transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. The witness added the man had light skin and a thin build, and he stood around 5’7’’ tall.
"We were really broken," said Father Mesfin Tesemma, who leads the Ethiopian church where Gitem was an active member. "We didn't expect this to happen to him. He doesn't deserve to die like this. He is a very nice person," according to News Chanel 5.
Mesfin said Demissie was a hard-working businessman who was well-known in the area. Mesfin said he sometimes put in 16 or 17 hours a day at his businesses.
Demissie had lived in Nashville for more than ten years. He first opened Ibex Mart on Bell Road, selling Ethiopian groceries, including spices, fresh meat, and vegetables. According to Mesfin, Ibex Mart was the only Ethiopian grocery store in Nashville, meaning a lot of people knew Demissie and relied on his business.
In January 2015, Gitem opened a second business, the restaurant and bar, where he was shot and killed early Sunday morning. Friends said Gitem had been working hard to sell his bar in hopes of taking time to travel home to Ethiopia to see his parents. His death has left many in the Ethiopian community fearing for their safety.
"What happened to him means a lot for everybody. So are we safe here?" Mesfin said. "Those are the kinds of questions it raises in the minds of a lot of Ethiopians."
Detectives remained on scene until sunrise collecting interviews and evidence. Anyone with information on this fatal shooting has been urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.