WELL DONE: 3 Armed Customers Stop a Holdup in a Convenience Store

Crime occurs. That fact endures, but it also evolves over time. We are no longer the society we once were. We may sit on the couch every night and watch big-city crime shows, but most of us know that the police will not arrive in time to stop a criminal’s violent attack.

Given our location, the police may simply be too far away. That is true throughout the country, both in rural areas and in small towns. Given the reductions in police budgets, this could be true in your city as well.

We also know that our courts are removing fewer criminals from the streets. That leaves us with the responsibility of defending ourselves until the police arrive.

This news event occurred in a small rural town. Ellijay, Georgia is unlikely to have the police force because the population is less than 2000 people. That means that law enforcement is most likely handled by county sheriff’s deputies or state police. By the time the cops arrived, the story had nearly concluded. Put yourself in this situation and observe what occurred a half hour after sunset on Monday.

When a customer pulled a gun from their pocket and pointed it at the clerk’s head, a store clerk in a gas station-convenience store knew he had a problem. As a disguise, the robber wore his underwear around his neck and pulled it up over his face. The robber approached the counter, pointed a pistol at the clerk’s head, and demanded the cash drawer’s contents. The store clerk feared the robber would kill him because other robbers had previously shot and killed store clerks.

Though neither the robber nor the store clerk realized it at the time, the robber was not the only person in the rural convenience store with a gun. One of the patrons was carrying a concealed handgun. The clerk’s cries were heard by the armed customer. He noticed the robber pointing his gun at the store clerk’s head and wearing a mask.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and that scene depicted an innocent store clerk facing a deadly threat. The customer was convinced by what he saw.

We’re not sure what happened after that. We know the armed customer displayed his weapon. He told the robber to come to a halt. We don’t know if the customer moved to make himself more difficult to see or to shoot. We have no idea if the robber lowered his gun. We know that other customers were in the store at the time of the robbery, but we don’t know if the armed customer had a clear shot at the robber without endangering the store clerk or other innocent parties.

When a second customer ran outside, he took his handgun from his truck. The second-armed customer then ran back inside, pointing his gun at the robber. The robber approached the front door with both armed customers pointing guns at him, but no one fired.

Details matter and we don’t have any security footage to show us what happened. When the robber pointed his gun at the clerk, he posed a lethal and immediate threat. If the robber lowered his gun, it could be argued that the threat was not immediate. Even armed, the robber posed no immediate threat if he turned away and moved toward the door.

During the robbery, a third customer was outside pumping gas. He either witnessed the robbery or witnessed the second customer take the gun from his truck. The third customer grabbed his gun and dashed inside the convenience store. He told the robber to come to a halt.

The robber was being pursued. If the robber moved toward any of the armed customers or the store clerk, he would become an immediate threat and would be shot. One of the customers told the robber to lie down and drop his gun. They took his gun after the robber did so.

The first armed customer instructed the other defenders to draw their weapons. We don’t know who dialed 911.

When the police arrived, the robber was uncooperative. Officers had to tase him in order to put handcuffs on him because he kept trying to run out the door. The officers took possession of the attacker’s gun. They also took the robber’s wife into custody. She was acting as the getaway driver and was waiting outside the store in their car.

The robber was charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault, and a felon in possession of a firearm. The wife was arrested and charged with armed robbery. Both were held without bond in jail.

It probably took longer to read this story than it did to witness the robbery and capture. Even if you had a firearm with you, you probably wouldn’t know what to do if you hadn’t planned ahead of time.

These points stand out . . .

  • Criminal don’t obey gun laws.
  • The armed robber was initially a lethal, immediate, and unavoidable threat to an innocent person. That justified the use of force, including lethal force. Said another way, using a gun might have been the safest thing to do.
  • Good guys are reluctant to shoot bad guys even when they’re legally justified in doing so.
  • Dangerous threats require an immediate response. The first defender didn’t have time to run to his car and get his firearm. Because the first customer was armed, the other customers had time to grab their firearms and respond.
  • The robber was no longer a threat when he dropped his gun and laid on the floor. The defenders were wise to take their fingers off their triggers and point their firearms in safer directions. You don’t point a gun at someone if they aren’t a threat.
  • The first armed customer may very well have saved the store clerk’s life. The other armed customers allowed the police to capture the criminal.

I don’t want to shoot anyone, but bad guys need to be shot every now and then. The robber could have killed the store clerk if he hadn’t lowered his gun. Fortunately, in this case, verbal commands were effective. They do not always work.