State

Police warn against self-defense in robbery

When confronted by a robber, police encourage store clerks to comply with demands for money or items. Still, an isolated number of liquor store and minimart employees take other steps to protect themselves.

An armed Modesto liquor store clerk shot and killed a suspect in an attempted robbery late Friday night. Although the would-be robber was armed, the Super Liquor cashier decided to fight back.

A second suspect, a 17-year-old Modestan whose name is not being released because he is a juvenile, fled the scene but was caught by police Saturday afternoon.

Officer Scott Nelson said people working at liquor stores, like many businesses, can become targets of robberies. Late shifts also can be dangerous. He advises workers to do whatever is ordered of them.

"The best thing they can do is give the robber the cash or items they demand," Nelson said. "But they can also be a very good witness. We tell them to calm down and remember descriptive information like moles or tattoos and describe the direction of travel when (robbers) leave."

Neither the Super Liquor clerk or owner could be reached for comment Monday. The store's video surveillance was being reviewed by police, but officials doubt the clerk will be charged with a crime, Nelson said.

"It's up to (employees) if they're going to make that decision (to defend themselves)," Nelson said. "If they choose that route, they need to consider the liability that comes with arming themselves."

Nelson added that it's important to get training for firearm use and the split-second decision making that accompanies carrying a weapon.

Although Modesto robberies decreased in 2009 compared with 2008, stores still are frequent targets for criminals. And some clerks choose to fight attackers.

In August, a would-be bandit who tried to strike at a Modesto cigarette store left empty-handed. The robber entered Cigarettes Plus at 2400 Coffee Road with a switchblade. The clerk reached under the counter and pulled out a baseball bat. The intruder fled.

But circumstances also be can deadly for the clerks. A convenience store cashier was shot and killed in December after an apparent botched robbery at Gas 'N Shop, a business on South Ninth Street. It wasn't clear if the clerk was complying with the robbers. The 28-year-old Modesto man injured in the shooting was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

In 2006, a convenience store owner in Modesto was killed as part of a string of five violent robberies. Three other store clerks were injured.

Two men were arrested in connection with the robberies, and one accepted a plea bargain for a 13-year prison sentence in return for his testimony against the alleged shooter, who faces the death penalty.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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