A man delivering food to the homebound elderly was shot and killed in the lobby of an apartment building in Brownsville, Brooklyn, on Monday morning, the police said.

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Whether the shooting was part of a robbery was not immediately known. The victim, Imonil Aminov, 55, worked as a deliveryman for the Jewish Association for Services for the Aged, which brings food to Brownsville and East New York through the city’s Department for the Aging, said Aileen Gitelson, chief executive officer of the Jewish Association.

The shooter, who was seen fleeing the scene, was described by the police as a black man in his 20s, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt. The police said they were reviewing footage from surveillance cameras, but it was not clear whether the shooting had been captured.

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Mr. Aminov was filling in for another worker on Monday, Ms. Gitelson said. He had a wife and three daughters, and came to the country from Tajikistan in 1989, working various jobs, including stints as a hot-dog vendor and a livery driver, his family said. After an accident while working as a livery driver left him unemployed, he started work with the meal-delivery program in August, his family said.

“He was delivering food to poor people, and they shot him down,” said his wife, Nadezhda Aminov.

The shooting occurred shortly after 10:15 a.m. at 341 Dumont Avenue in the Brownsville Houses, the police said. Mr. Aminov was shot once in the chest. He was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, the police said.

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The shooting seemed unusual, even in the sometimes dangerous world of food deliveries. Robberies of food deliverymen, especially those employed by Chinese restaurants, while not routine, are far from unheard of in the city. But the shooting of a deliveryman working for a nonprofit organization on behalf of the elderly left many wondering what could have motivated the shooting.

Delivery drivers for the Jewish Association occasionally carry cash, picking up voluntary contributions once a week, Ms. Gitelson said. But, she said, the donations are very small and are usually collected at week’s end.

Mr. Aminov, who drove a truck marked “Nutritional Meals Delivered to Homebound Seniors,” had just made his delivery to Gertie Johnson, 73, a meal of pasta and broccoli, Ms. Johnson said.

“He’s a very nice man,” Ms. Johnson said. “I hate it so bad.”

After he left the food with her granddaughter and made a second delivery, “We heard a bang,” Ms. Johnson said. “I said, ‘Was that a shot?’ ”

Ms. Johnson said her granddaughter replied, “It sounds like a shot.” The granddaughter looked out and saw Mr. Aminov lying in the hall, Ms. Johnson said.

Another resident, Bernadette Jones, said she heard a noise, “like something dropped” in the hallway. About two minutes later, her 20-year-old daughter, Kady, opened the apartment door to go to the store, and screamed.

Bernadette Jones said Mr. Aminov’s glasses and black cap were still on and, not seeing any blood, she assumed he had had a heart attack. Another neighbor lifted Mr. Aminov’s hand, but it flopped back to the floor, she said.

Ms. Jones said that across the hall from her apartment, a woman screamed, “God, what did they do? He just brought me my lunch.”

Another neighbor, Martha Surgener, 68, believed he was new to Brownsville because he arrived at her home early.

“They bring nice meals — chicken, beef stew, all kinds of things,” she said. “They can’t go around killing people like that. It’s a depressing day. It’s crazy.”

Accounts varied as to how often Mr. Aminov, who lived in the Starrett City complex in East New York, Brooklyn, visited the Brownsville Houses. Some tenants said they had seen him before. But Mr. Aminov’s nephew, Arthur Leviyeva, 28, said Mr. Aminov feared the Brownsville Houses and had refused to go there on Monday, only to be ordered to go by a dispatcher. “He saw it as a very dangerous place,” Mr. Leviyeva said. “Maybe he was trying to fight them and they shot him in the heart.”

Ms. Gitelson said she did not know of any such exchange between Mr. Aminov and a dispatcher.

“If someone refuses to work, they just refuse to work,” she said, and added that she had never heard of a driver refusing to enter a neighborhood. “We deliver I don’t know how many meals a year,” she said. “I’ve never heard it.”

A co-worker, Anita Acevedo, 44, said Mr. Aminov was a popular and eager deliveryman, nicknamed “Running Man.”

“He took the meals and he would just run with them,” Ms. Acevedo said. “Everybody loved him here.”

All drivers are routinely warned of possible danger in neighborhoods with high rates of crime, she said.

“I would tell the guys, ‘Guys if there’s ever anything, please give up what you have,’ ” Ms. Acevedo said. “ ‘Don’t resist.’ ”

* By MICHAEL WILSON (NYT, November 11, 2008)
Ann Farmer, Karen Zraick and Carolyn Wilder contributed reporting.