It’s a mystery. Who were the hooded men who forced the 44-year-old into a dark-colored van when he came to open his store at 5:30 Sunday morning?
We’re told that police aren’t releasing the surveillance video from the store at 5600 Jefferson Davis Highway or the truck shop next door because it’s too grainy to help, but that usually doesn’t stop them from trying to solicit help from the public.
We have learned that there has been no demand for ransom, and that Patel’s cell phone was found later that day near the Belmont exit of Chippenham Parkway.
The FBI is mum about the case, saying all information must come from Chesterfield police, who also aren’t talking.
We visited with several family members, who also didn’t want to talk.
A cousin who is helping run the store says they were told anything they say could endanger Patel, a native of India who is married with two children.
The cousin said the abduction comes as a shock. No troubles with customers, no enemies, no trouble at home.
Patel is described as a deeply religious man who also keeps a strict, military-like schedule. You can set your watch by his comings and goings, the cousin said, which may have left him vulnerable to someone intent on robbing him.
Store owners and workers have been abducted in the area before, most notably in July of 2001, when two Arab-Americans who operated the James Food Market in South Richmond were forced into the trunks of their cars.
One was shot to death. The other escaped by jumping into the James River.
Chesterfield police have not released a possible motive in the Patel abduction.