In the line of fire: IV Deli owners vow to ‘be strong’ after tragedy
With the blood cleaned from the floor and flowers masking bullet holes in the windows, there was an air of business as usual Sunday afternoon at IV Deli Mart, just 36 hours after Christopher Michael-Martinez was murdered inside the store in a drive-by shooting that made international headlines.
“As much as our hearts are broken, it’s time to move on and be strong,” said store owner Sam Hassan. “If you fall down, just get up, lick your wounds and keep going. That’s how you defeat the evil of what happened here.”
Like many small businesses in the Tri-Counties, IV Deli is a family affair. Sam and his son Michael Hassan have owned the business together for 12 years, and their store is a gathering place for the student community next to UC Santa Barbara.
The Hassans were devastated when students they knew personally were killed Friday night. But they also showed the grit and determination to survive even the terrible turn of events, holding a fundraiser for the victims’ families and eventually planning to establish a scholarship for underprivileged students in Martinez’s name.
Sam said the shop, popular with students on Friday nights because it’s open until 3 a.m., is a place where people know each other. “They’d come in the store; we’d joke with them, laugh with them. We feel like we are part of a family, like everybody else in town,” Sam said. “It’s like you lost a kid, you know? It’s our kids.”
IV Deli Mart opens its doors at 7 a.m. and doesn’t close them again until 3 a.m. every day. It’s popular with college students because they can stop by or call in a delivery for anything from a quick breakfast before a big test to an afternoon snack between classes to late-night study or party fuel. Inside the convenience store, the shop also has a food counter with an eclectic array of dishes, from standard deli fare to Mexican and Mediterranean food to fried chicken dinners. Some of its more oddball creations, like the IV Loco, a sandwich containing a cheeseburger, corn dogs, chili, cheese and fries, or the Hangover Specialty, are a must-try part of the college experience in the beachfront student town.
“IV Deli is such a staple for IV, I would go home and brag to my friends about how there’s a place that will deliver burgers, toilet paper and cigarettes to you at any hour of the night,” said fourth-year UCSB student Peggy Anderson. “They work hard for us, and I hate to see them struggle in a time like this.”
Anderson said the atmosphere in the store has always been part of the reason for going there. It’s “always been so nice and cheerful whenever I go in there,” she said, and Michael Hassan “cracks jokes and makes you laugh while you’re standing in line.”
Situated on Isla Vista’s busiest commercial street, IV Deli relocated to a larger building next door to its previous space in early April to accommodate heavy foot traffic.
Michael Hassan said that at a prayer vigil held after the shootings he was amazed at how many faces he recognized among the mourners. “I saw there was, what, 4,000 people at the vigil? Looking around, half of them were people I see around the store all the time,” he said.
The Hassans are determined to move on, but it’s not easy to shake the horror that took place in their business.
After the gunman fired seven shots into the storefront from his black BMW, IV Deli’s surveillance video shows that Martinez lay bleeding on the floor for 20 minutes before an ambulance was able to respond, Sam said. Officers were on the scene within minutes, but left before paramedics arrived, presumably to assist at one of 11 other crime scenes.
Alyssa Hopper, a second-year philosophy major, said police began performing CPR but then asked a bystander to take over, and she stepped up. “I was in complete instinct-mode,” said Hopper, who has been a lifeguard for five years. “I was at the right place at the wrong time.”
Meanwhile, Sam and Michael rushed to their store. The manager-on-duty had alerted them right after calling 9-1-1, Sam said.
“Somebody died in there on the floor. We saw the footage of that, and it was horrible,” Sam said.
The next day, mourners left flowers and candles in front of the store to commemorate the victims, whose identities had yet to be confirmed. As a crowd gathered outside, employees were left with the task of mopping up blood and sterilizing shelves.
A flock of reporters and videographers from news outlets all over the world have been camped out around the building since Saturday morning. Sam said the media presence prevented shipments from being delivered.
“There’s too many, and they’ve been here now for three days. People sometimes want to have a minute by themselves here, and they don’t have it because there’s no privacy,” said Sam, who repeatedly requested that news vans vacate the adjacent parking lot.
“People want to move on, but there’s a camera in their face,” he said.
Once Martinez was identified as the victim, his father, Richard Martinez, stopped by the store and dropped off pictures for the memorial, Sam said. He said he admires Richard’s appeal to lawmakers for tighter gun control, adding that skewed political priorities are also part of the problem.
“The government puts too much [funding] in weapons and not enough in education and social services,” Sam said. “That’s what it is, we don’t have a government working for us.”
As a father himself, Sam said he cannot imagine what Richard is going though.
“It’s a horrible thing,” Sam said. “You can’t even sleep if your kid has a fever. How about if he dies? It’s really, really hard and I hope they have the strength to stand up and keep going.”
— UCSB Daily Nexus Editor in Chief Carrissa Quiambao contributed reporting to this article.