Zara Adil became an international sensation by doing the very thing that countless convenience store employees are told not to do.
When her family's store, Tobacco Zone at 717 North Broadway, was robbed on Feb. 27, she fought back.
The robbers did not get to raid the cash register, and Adil is credited with helping police break a string of other Lexington robberies because she saw the face of her attacker and remembered that he had been in the store before.
What cemented her status as a viral phenomenon was the store's surveillance camera video of the robbery showing Adil, 20, fighting like a wildcat with a man who was much bigger than her.
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Officials think that man was Darnell Thomas, 30, who was arrested March 3, charged with robberies all over Lexington, including three Waffle Houses, a Speedway, a Marathon gas station, a Jimmy John's, a Chinese takeout restaurant and a person on North Martin Luther King Boulevard.
After thinking about her actions for a few weeks — during which she has been interviewed numerous times, including for a Fox News segment and on Jimmy Kimmel's and Steve Harvey's shows — Adil has had plenty of time to think about whether she would do it all again.
She would, she said.
"It's a family-run business," she said of Tobacco Zone, which is owned by her parents, Adil Malik and Shabana Thabasum. "My parents are working hard. ... The only reason they (robbers) get away with this is because people are letting them get away with this."
Her parents emigrated from Pakistan to London and then to the United States for better educational opportunities for their children. Zara has two siblings — sister Misbah, 24, and brother Anas, 14. Misbah is a makeup artist studying to become a petroleum engineer. Anas wants to become a neurosurgeon.
Zara graduated from Lafayette High School and is a student at Bluegrass Community and Technical College. She wants to be a trauma surgeon so she can become wealthy enough to build hospitals for impoverished Africans.
Although her mother named her after a character in a Pakistani television series, becoming a star of viral video is not something Zara Adil welcomed.
The international exposure "is very uncomfortable," Adil said. "I'm a very shy person."
In the first two interviews she did post-robbery, Adil did not allow her face to be shown. Then her sister pointed out that her face was easily visible in the surveillance tape.
Zara's mother was not pleased when she discovered that Zara had fought back during the robbery attempt, preferring instead that her daughter give up the money and not risk her life, Zara said.
Misbah was also surprised at her sister's action because Zara had always been shy.
"She's strong, I know she can fight ... but she would always push me forward (to speak with people), because she's the more laid-back person," Misbah said.
Brother Anas admires his sister Zara: "She wouldn't do something like this unless there was a reason for it to be done."
Zara was alone with two robbers who wanted the cash from her family's Tobacco Zone business on Feb. 27. The two had told everyone to leave, including other customers and an employee in training.
But the robber, who managed to get behind the counter, made the mistake of leaving his gun where Zara could reach it. She had never before shot a gun. Nonetheless, she grabbed the gun and shot the robber in the shoulder.
The man's accomplice fled.
After struggling with the injured robber, Zara turned to her Islamic faith, which says that everyone deserves a second chance.
She stopped fighting the man, twice her size, for the gun. She tried to reason with him to get him out the door. But he decided he still wanted the cash register drawer and the $1,500 inside.
Zara fought him for it. Finally the robber ran off.
Despite what has happened and although Zara and her family like living in Lexington, they are moving back to Houston. Zara said the family plans to retain ownership of the Tobacco Zone.
Zara and her siblings, like most brothers and sisters, affectionately tease each other.
Said Misbah of her suddenly well-known little sister: "If you don't listen to her, she's like, 'I'm famous. You have to listen to me.'"