To view the video, click the link at the end of the story.
At 7:30 a.m., on December 4, 2004, Karen Smith was working behind the counter of the Sunoco gas station on Cleveland Avenue in Columbus, Ohio. When a man walked into the store, Karen instinctively knew he wasn’t there to buy gas. She later said he acted nervous, glancing around stealthily until all the customers left.
Desmond Thompson was an addict with a long criminal past. When the store emptied, he walked to the counter and demanded money. Later, after viewing the video, Detective Drew McEvoy said, “You can see where [Thompson has] got his left hand in his pocket and he’s banging on the counter, implying he’s got a gun.”
Karen decided not to be a hero. She opened the drawer and handed over the the cash, expecting him to take it and bolt out the door. He didn’t. Instead, Thompson ordered her to come out from behind the counter. Karen knew that this spelled the ultimate danger. She could be assaulted, kidnapped, or worse.
The video shows Karen reaching into a drawer beneath the counter and coming up with a .38-caliber revolver. She fires once and Thompson drops to the floor. “I didn’t hesitate,” Karen said. “He acted like he [had a gun].” After shooting the robber, Karen called 911. It was discovered by paramedics that Thomspon had been shot in the shoulder.
McEvoy later quipped to reporters: “The best advice I can give [to potential robbers] is don’t rob a store where Mrs. Smith is working.”
The following cases illustrate the dangers convenience store clerks face every day. In 1999, pretty Katie Poirier was abducted from a Conoco station in Moose Lake, Minnesota by a convicted sex offender named Donald Blom. He took her to his home where he raped and murdered her then burned her body so that only bone and tooth fragments were ever found.
Lee Ann Larmon, 22, worked at a rural convenience store in Hernando County, Florida, near Brooksville. Two wannabe-Satanists abducted her and drove her into a swamp where they tortured, raped, and murdered her. The brutality of the crime was so horrific that when a local newspaper published the gory details, it was driven out of business. This crime also inspired a Florida law that requires two clerks to work night-shifts in convenience stores.
Johnny James was executed in Texas for abducting two women, forcing them to have sex with each other, sodomizing them, and then shooting them in the head. One of the women was a clerk he had kidnapped from a convenience store.
Desmond Thompson was sentenced to 4 years in prison. He’ll be released in 2010, presumably to go back to committing new crimes. The shooting was ruled self-defense and Karen Smith was not charged.