Convenience store manager fires gun after shoplifting incident

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - An E. Washington St. convenience store manager is under investigation for firing his gun at a shoplifter.

It happened Monday night at Sam’s Food Mart & Tobacco Store.

Eyewitness News spoke with one of the store clerks about why the manager decided to fire his weapon.

The clerk said the shooting happened after his co-worker chased a customer through the front door and into the parking lot. The shoplifter left with a couple of items without paying for them.

Someone flagged down an IMPD officer to report the incident.

Eyewitness News has learned the shoplifter stole a bag of Planters peanuts and a package of Hostess Zingers.

The clerk working Tuesday morning said theft is an ongoing problem at the store. They’ve taken several steps to try to prevent it but have had little success.

People who shop at the store on a regular basis also shared it's something that happens every day.

“Some kids just don't have food to eat so they just go in there and take what they want.” Karey Spence said. “It's not right but they do.”

The manager reportedly discharged a warning shot into the ground to scare the shoplifter. No one was injured by the scare tactic and the shoplifter fled the scene.

The store has both interior and exterior security cameras. There’s no word on whether the store manager has turned over video of the incident to police.

The manager reportedly started carrying a gun after a March 2017 break-in which was caught on camera. In the middle of the night while the store was closed, security cameras recorded a man used bolt cutters on their front door security gate. Once inside the man filled a bag with cash and merchandise.

Clerks at the store work behind a secured cashier’s cage, but theft suspects take merchandise and run out the door without paying.

The store manager has installed a chime on the door that sounds both inside and outside the store each time the door opens.

Customers like Erica Leatherbury believe the shooting is about more than just pastries and peanuts.

“Shoot over no peanuts, I don’t think so”, said Leatherbury. “So he is probably tired of this neighborhood, really. Look what you have all around you, you get thieves all the time.”

During their initial investigation into the gunfire, police did not arrest the clerk but they did confiscate his handgun, a holster, one spent round and 15 unspent bullets as well.

Spence, a regular customer, said she wasn’t surprised about the shooting. She has witnessed people coming in the store and leaving without paying for food items. She is glad no one got hurt in the gunfire but she empathizes with both the store employees and people who resort to stealing.

“At least he didn't shoot him, just a warning shot,” she said.

Spence is one of several people stopped by IMPD officers during increased patrols in the neighborhood Tuesday morning. In addition to patrol cars there are officers on bicycles conducting beat patrols.

“They stopped by and asked for my identification,” said Spence. “I am sure they are checking for people who may have outstanding warrants. It’s part of cleaning up the streets so that it’s safer out here.”

The clerk working at the store Tuesday morning said that the manager who fired the shot would not be back at the store any time soon. It’s likely IMPD will meet the prosecutor to determine if the clerk should face any charges for criminal recklessness or discharging a firearm.

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