ASHRAF Bishr could feel the eyes on his back.
He was being followed, and he knew it.
It was late on July 1 as Bishr wandered through West Philadelphia, searching for a crosstown bus that could take him home.
His journey was halted when the two stalkers sidled up to him and offered him a ride home in exchange for cash. Puzzled — and slightly unnerved — by the strangers and their offer, Bishr declined.
He didn't expect what happened next: The men shoved him into a waiting SUV at gunpoint, demanded $5,000 in cash and spent the next half hour kicking, punching and pistol-whipping him — because the thugs mistakenly believed that Bishr owned a fried-chicken restaurant, police said.
The ordeal ended in a hail of gunfire at Callowhill and Robinson streets as Bishr, a 50-year-old heart-transplant survivor and father of four, took a bullet in each leg.
Police said his captors fled with $29 — a far cry from the big payday they envisioned.
A month after his brush with death, Bishr is relieved that police have the alleged triggerman, Brian Walker, in custody.
But he still faces an arduous recovery that has him mostly confined to his apartment in Frankford, where each day his wife and a visiting nurse tend his wounds and other medical complications.
Worst of all, the shooting has made it virtually impossible for Bishr to provide for his 3-year-old daughter and for two sons in college.
Bishr, who moved to the United States from Egypt in the 1980s, said he's been on disability since a near-fatal illness forced him to require a heart transplant in 2001. He finally felt healthy enough earlier this summer to start searching for a part-time job.
"Whatever hopes I had went right down the drain," Bishr said last week. "I just don't understand it — what could make a person shoot another human being? Over what, twenty-nine dollars?"
Bishr spent most of the evening of July 1 visiting his oldest son, Mohamed, 23, and his wife in their new home in Overbrook.
At about 10:30 p.m., Bishr left his son's house at 63rd Street and City Avenue and started walking down 63rd Street toward Market so he could take SEPTA home.
Along the way, Bishr said, he stopped at a fried- chicken restaurant at 63rd Street and Haverford Avenue that is run by some men he knew from West Philly's Masjid al-Jamia Mosque.
"After I left the restaurant, I felt as though I was being followed," he said. "There weren't too many people around, but I noticed a couple of guys who seemed to be walking a certain distance behind me."
The men eventually caught up to Bishr. Police said Walker, 26, introduced himself as "B-Love" and said, "Salaam aleichem," which translates to "peace" in Arabic. Bishr relaxed, believing he was in the company of fellow Muslims.
"They tried to strike up a conversation. They wanted to know if I worked, if I owned a store, and then they offered me a ride home. It made me a little bit leery," he said.
Walker's alleged accomplice then jumped into a red Jeep Cherokee and pulled up alongside Bishr and Walker at 62nd and Noble streets, where Walker allegedly pointed a gun at Bishr's head and ordered him into the vehicle, said Detective Matt Farley, of Southwest Detectives.
The driver of the Cherokee sped to a house at 62nd and Race streets, where Walker hopped out and retrieved a set of clothes. Then the demands — and the beatings — began, Bishr said.
"They put me in a choke hold and started pistol-whipping me," Bishr said quietly, running his hand over his salt-and-pepper beard.
The captor whom police identified as Walker said, "'I know you own the fried-chicken place. Give me the $5,000,'" Bashir said.
"I said, 'Sir, you must be mistaken. I'm a 50-year-old man on disability with a family.' But they kept asking for a specific amount of money, and it got me worried," he said.
His captors weren't buying his story, even after Bishr gave them the $29 he was carrying. They had bigger plans.
Farley said the men drove Bishr to an abandoned property on Callowhill Street near 62nd, dragged him inside and ordered him to lie down in a bathtub and strip.
"They searched me and told me I was going to die," Bishr said. "I kept telling them that I had given them everything that I had, but they said, 'Don't think you're leaving here alive.'"
Walker and his accomplice allegedly continued to punch, kick and pistol-whip Bishr until a woman who was in the house intervened, Farley said.
"She said, 'Not here, Brian,'" Bishr recalled.
By that point, Bishr said, he had given up trying to reason with his captors.
He thought about the previous struggles he had faced in life — the heart transplant, the time he spent as a pilot during the 1973 Yom Kippur War involving Egypt, Syria and Israel — and he stood up to the men threatening his life.
"I knew I couldn't reason with them, so I let [his assailant] know I wasn't afraid," he said. "'You can beat me, but I'm not going to follow your intentions just because you're holding a gun.'"
Bishr was ushered outside again, and he started yelling, trying to draw the attention of neighbors who were sitting outside. No one responded.
Instead, Bishr, the man police say is Walker and his accomplice ended up at Callowhill and Robinson, where they had a final confrontation.
Walker allegedly fired his handgun twice, striking Bishr once on each thigh, and both assailants then fled, Farley said.
Bloodied and beaten, Bishr crawled down Callowhill Street and begged residents to dial 911. They ignored him.
"Someone said to me, 'Old head, there's a public phone on the next block,'" he said. "I was in complete shock."
The lack of compassion left even veteran cops stunned.
"Our values have deteriorated to such a point that people don't even have the common decency to help a man in his time of need," said Lt. John Walker of Southwest Detectives. "It's sad."
Brian Walker was taken into police custody on July 16 on witness- intimidation charges in a separate case, according to court records.
Bishr picked his photo out of a police database. "In his most recent arrest photo, Walker has the word, "B-Love" tattooed on his arm," detective Farley noted. "It's crazy."
Walker was re-arrested on July 25 for his alleged role in Bishr's attack, and hit with a host of charges, including attempted murder, kidnapping for ransom and inflicting serious bodily injury.
Bishr ran into a number of complications from the shooting, and had to have chunks of tissue removed from the wound sites because of infections.
He said his daughter, Sedrah, was terrified when she first saw him in the hospital. Now, she is happy to toddle around him, usually saying, "'My daddy has a boo-boo. The person who did this is bad,'" Bishr said.