by Robert A. Waters
Working behind the counter at Good Family Pharmacy in Pinch, West Virginia, pharmacist Don Radcliff noticed a strange man walk in. The man’s head was covered with a hoodie, and his face masked by a white bandana. Since the weather was freezing outside, Radcliff didn’t feel comfortable with the man’s unusual attire.
Attempting to crack a joke, Radcliff asked the man if he was there to rob the store. The man didn’t respond, and that suddenly struck Radcliff as strange. “He didn’t say anything,” Radcliff said. “He didn’t reply. He didn’t laugh or joke with me. He didn’t pull his hood or mask down and that gave me an uneasy feeling.”
Surveillance videos inside the store recorded what happened next.
The masked man, later identified as Terry Gillenwater, reached into his pocket and pulled out a handgun. Radcliff later said: “As soon as I saw [Gillenwater’s] gun, I went for mine. You can’t hesitate and I didn’t. I tried to close the distance between us because there was another student and an employee there and I definitely didn’t want them between us in a gunfight. If there was going to be a gunfight, it was going to be between me and him.”
The pharmacist fired three rounds from his .45-caliber pistol. Each bullet struck home. The first round hit Gillenwater in the chest while the second hit the robber’s gun, disabling it. Radcliff’s final round struck the robber in the abdomen. Gillenwater fell to the floor, mortally wounded.
While Radcliff attempted to treat the robber’s wounds, pharmacy staff dialed 911. Gillenwater, however, died on his way to the hospital.
Investigators concluded that Gillenwater’s intent was to steal prescription drugs. He had a history of drug abuse, and had recently entered a treatment center after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute Oxycontin. Kanawha County Prosecutor Chuck Miller stated that “Mr. Gillenwater had done some preliminary efforts to case the pharmacy. He had done some search[es] on his iPhone with respect to drugs in the pharmacy.”
Miller later told reporters that “it took a great deal of courage for Mr. Radcliff to pull his weapon and fire in the face of a weapon being pointed at him that was fully loaded with a round in the chamber. That takes a lot of nerve, but he was completely justified in doing so.”
The pharmacist, who had a concealed carry permit, will not be charged with any crime.