Nepal earthquake donation jar stolen, pregnant clerk threatened in St. Paul

"He said if you call cops you know. I'm going to kill you."

Those are the words that have stuck with Chhimi Doma Bhutia since Wednesday evening around 7 p.m. She was working alone at the Himalayan Grocery on Rice Street in St. Paul. Bhutia and her husband own the store, and she says when a man spent several minutes pacing through the store on Wednesday evening, she knew something wasn't right.

"I think he might have thought, you know, she is pregnant, she can't do anything," Bhutia said.

Bhutia is 9 months pregnant, ready to give birth to her first child on May 9. She says the man grabbed her by the arm, forcing her behind the counter, demanding all the money from the cash register, and showing the gun he had in his waistband.

"I was just telling him take, take, take money just take all the money and go," she said.

Til Pokwal Chheti says he's owned the Himalayan Grocery for 3 years. Along with shoving his wife around, the robber also took about $300 out of the donation jar sitting on the counter. Chheti started collecting donations for earthquake victims in Nepal on behalf of the Bhutanese Community Organization of Minnesota. Chheti's sister survived the earthquake, and is currently living in a refugee camp outside Kathmandu.

"That wasn't only the donation of money, it was the donation of wishes, for the people are dying in Nepal," said Chheti's brother, Kamal Pokwal.

As the man left the store Wednesday evening, he told Bhutia to keep her head down, not to look at her, and continued to make threats to kill her if she called police.

"I was totally nervous at that point in time," Bhutia said. "I did not understand what was going on."

An agonizing cross between being terrified and relieved.

"Money it comes and goes," Chheti said. "But this situation at least he didn't do anything to her. That's what I'm happy with."

St. Paul police are reviewing video from all 6 surveillance cameras set up in the store. So far, investigators have not made an arrest.

The Himalayan Grocery will continue to collect donations for earthquake victims in Nepal, but will no longer being putting a jar for cash on their store counter. Contact BCOM if you would like to donate to the Nepal Relief Fund: http://www.bhutanesemn.org/

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