The friends and family of a gas station attendant who died in an alleged ‘gas and dash’ incident say the employee tried to stop the thief because he didn’t want to have his wages docked – an allegation the station owners deny.

Those who knew Jayesh Prajapati allege the station attendant had his wages docked before when customers had stolen gas, which explains why he tried to stop a driver from leaving the station grounds without paying.

Prajapati, 44, was killed Saturday evening after attempting to stop a driver from fleeing without paying a $112 gas bill. Police said Prajapati was struck by the vehicle and dragged down the street.

Toronto police are searching for a suspect in the death and say the man may have fled to Montreal.

“He was under some mental pressure, he wanted to save his day’s wages and that’s why he ran after the guy,” said the victim’s brother-in-law Hemant Kumar.

But the station’s management says there are no policies in place that dock wages from station employees when gas is stolen on their watch.

“It’s not true. We have policies in place and one of the main policy in place is never to run after vehicles,” said owner Max Alibhai.

However, Prajapati’s friends insist that though not official, the practice had happened to the attendant before.

“Over a period of time he just accepted this thing as a way of life if you want to work at a gas station,” said family friend Apurva Patel. “It is not well defined policy kind of thing, it is a mutual understanding between the gas station employee and the retail owner.”

Prajapati had come to Canada with his family from India in 2006. He worked as a chemist before, but couldn’t find work in his field in Canada.

He started working at the Shell gas station in 2009.

Prajapati’s wife told CTV Toronto she doesn’t know how she can go on without her husband.

“How will me and my son, … how will I live without him … it’s so difficult for me and my son,” said a distraught Vaishali Prajapati.

Labour group launches hotline for gas station workers

The Ontario Federation of Labour says it believes the illegal practice of docking worker wages for gas theft may have played a role in the death of a Toronto station attendant over the weekend.

Sid Ryan, president of the Ontario Federation of Labour, announced on Tuesday the launch of a hotline for gas station workers who may be forced to cover the cost of stolen gasoline. Anyone with tips is invited to call 1-800-668-9138.

“We believe that at far too many gas stations in Ontario, after a thief drives off with stolen gas, the company turns around and steals the money back from vulnerable workers,” Ryan said in a statement.

“This practice puts workers’ lives at risk and could have played a role in the death of an innocent gas station attendant. We want anyone with information on gas stations ripping off employees to call our anonymous hotline to help identify bad bosses and offending companies.”

Ryan said the Employment Standards Act prohibits employers from deducting the cost of theft from wages. He said oil companies have a responsibility to ensure franchise owners aren’t exploiting workers.

Shell Canada has said it does not require workers to cover the cost of stolen items and stating that employee safety is a top concern.

“Shell’s top priority is the safety of staff and customers, and under no circumstances are sales associates or any other retail employee to intervene during criminal activity,” said a statement released this week.

Police issue warrant for suspect

Meanwhile Toronto police have issued a warrant for the arrest of 39-year-old Max Edwin Tutiven on the charge of second-degree murder and say he may have fled to Montreal.

“We are requesting the public’s assistance in determining the location of Mr. Tutiven and the vehicle that dragged Mr. Prajapati’s body,” Det. Kate Beveridge told a press conference on Monday.

“He does have associates in Montreal. And there is currently a warrant before the courts in Montreal,” she said, adding that he is also wanted in Toronto on unrelated charges.

Tutiven is wanted on the charge of second-degree murder. He is described as a white male with a dark complexion, about 5’5” and weighing between 220 and 230 pounds.

Tutiven is believed to be driving a 2000-2003 silver or beige four-door Isuzu Rodeo, which may have stolen plates attached to it.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said this week he would look into ways to make workplaces safer for station attendants.

Last year, a 62-year-old Petro-Canada employee in Mississauga died after confronting a man attempting to leave the station without paying, a crime colloquially referred to as a “gas and dash.” A 22-year-old man was later charged in the death and theft of $75 worth of gas.

The deadly cases have prompted some to call for mandatory pre-payment at all gas stations, similar to systems already in place in British Columbia and in parts of the U.S.

With a report from CTV Toronto's Zuraidah Alman