BY JIMMY VIELKIND and ERNIE NASPRETTO - A beloved Harlem bodega worker known for his generosity collapsed and died - minutes after struggling with a shoplifter outside his popular store, cops said yesterday.
Mohammed Mused, 56, confronted the thief in front of the Lenox Ave. shop about 10 p.m. Saturday, cops and relatives said.
Mused, who worked seven days a week to send money home to his family in Yemen, was able to pry a swiped box of cereal from the shoplifter, who ran off.
But moments later, the father of five complained to a co-worker of chest pains and fell to the ground. He died about an hour later at Harlem Hospital, from what the medical examiner's office said was a heart attack.
"He tried to help everybody back home - not just family. He often gave money to poor people," said Mused's distraught 20-year-old son, Abdo Mused.
"[He] worked seven days a week, 12 hours a day, to send money home."
Mused, who suffered from high blood pressure and heart disease, had been a well-liked fixture on Lenox Ave. for two decades.
He lived nearby on W. 137th St., and had owned a bodega for 17 years - until it was destroyed by fire two years ago.
"I'd go in there just to hang out and talk. He was such a cool guy. He gave people credit if they needed it," said longtime neighborhood resident Tony Montana, 44.
Norma Jean Darden, who owns Miss Maude's Spoon Bread Two restaurant, which isnext-door to the bodega where Mused died, mourned the "awful loss."
"He was such a good neighbor. He would make change for us and bring over supplies if we ran out," Darden said.
Mused emigrated from Yemen in 1966. He has a wife, another son and three daughters still living there, Abdo Mused said.
Cops retrieved a store security video that shows Mused shaking and collapsing after the confrontation. They continue to search for the shoplifter.
Loyal customer Yvette Mason, 37, said Mused will be deeply missed.
"He helped you out if you needed help," said Mason, who worked nearby as an office manager and shopped at the bodega regularly. "He was so nice."
New York Daily News*