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Walgreens pharmacist shooting at robbers

Walgreens pharmacist shooting at robbers The holdup that led to a Walgreens pharmacist’s firing after he thwarted armed robbery of Benton Harbor store.Watch video

Jeremy Hoven is the now former Benton Harbor, MI Walgreens pharmacist who drove two gun-wielding robbers from his store during an early-morning robbery attempt in December of 2007. Hoven, a licensed CCW permit holder, was carrying a pistol in his pocket when the attempted holdup took place. He was subsequently fired by Walgreens, he said, for violating their “non-escalation” policy and later filed a wrongful termination suit against the company. Now he and his lawyers have released an artfully cut and edited store security video that appears to have been put together by the same folks who did 24

The video does an excellent job of tracing most of the would-be robbers’ progress from the moment they enter the store, to manhandling the store manager at gunpoint to Hoven returning fire from one of the robbers while trying to dial 911.

One of the masked robbers pointed a gun at Hoven as he called 911. The robber’s gun jammed, and didn’t fire, attorneys said. Hoven pulled his handgun from his pants pocket and fired.

“At that moment, Hoven reasonably and justifiably believed that the was going to be shot and either killed or seriously injured by the armed robber. … Hoven then fired his handgun several times in self-defense and in defense of his co-workers,” attorneys Daniel Swanson and Jesse Young wrote in the lawsuit.

The robbers left a gun behind as they ran away.

In a Grand Rapids press conference, Swanson said: “Walgreens acknowledged (Hoven’s) attempt to protect himself and fellow employees by firing him.”

Walgreens has responded to the suit by denying that Hoven was fired for violation of the non-escalation policy.

[Walgreens] disputed Hoven’s contention that he had a “right to carry or discharge a concealed weapon on its premises at any time.”

The company said Hoven’s claims for compensation are not allowed under the law.

“Walgreens had a plausible and legitimate business reason to justify its decision to discharge (Hoven),” attorneys Charles Mishkind and Adam Forman said in the response.


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    • If you’re going to go to the trouble to avoid shopping there, you should write to them and tell them that’s what you’re doing. Otherwise you’re just inconveniencing yourself without any impact on the policy.

      I wonder if CVS or RiteAid would have reacted any differently.

      • i can’t stand rite-aid but at least they do have security guards (the rite-aid i have been to has 1 security guard). may be consider as rent-a-cops but think about it: this store had no type of security!

  1. Interesting how Hoven hung onto a corded telephone AS HE WAS SHOOTING.

    First, who has a corded telephone? Can you even buy one of those? And second, Hoven should have prioritized his immediate safety. Either run like hell (usually your best option) or FIGHT.

    We’ll be doing a self-defense tip on this soon: drop it like it’s hot.

    • I have a corded phone in the kitchen for power outages. Cordless phones require working electricity to power the base unit. Cell phones require you to look at the screen to dial a number which (IMNSHO) is a bad idea in an emergency.

      On the “drop the phone while shooting”… Absodamnlutely! When you are holding a gun your focus should be entirely on the threat. I can see where someone who doesn’t practice for situations could be caught in a bad place when trying to switch from “call the police” mode to “shoot the threat” mode. This is why we should be thinking through scenarios ahead of time, no matter what Magoof or MikeBbunchanumbers think. This is an excellent example of why planning for unlikely scenarios isn’t a “Rambo fantasy” as they would put it.

      • +1 on having a corded phone around…just in case. Pharmacies use them because the staff spends so much time on the phone that corded phones are easier; no need to change out batteries throughout the day like the drive through people with cordless headsets have to do.

        And I don’t think it’s a failure to not drop the phone. Especially while retreating. It’s a way to summons more help; it’s natural to not want to relinquish it. If I’m retreating and shooting and manage to hole up, I still want to be able to explain to dispatch what’s going on. Sure I could drop the phone and hope the 911 call connects and the dispatcher figures out what to do based on tinny, muffled sounds.

        Drop it, hold it? It depends. There’s no right answer.

    • You can…. buy a corded phone, that is… and it’s not a bad idea to have one. Cordless phones don’t work when the power’s out, but corded ones do.

      • Not always.

        Phone lines generally work as long as they are intact, and in general they are self-powered.

        However, if the phone lines are taken out in addition to the power lines, and/or you have non-copper telephone service (I.E. Fiber-Optic) and your on-site power supply is down/dead, then the phones won’t work…

    • Why have a corded phone? Because when the power goes out, the cordless phones stop working, but the corded phone draws its power from the phone line and will continue to work as long as the phone lines are still up.

      • “Why have a corded phone? Because when the power goes out, the cordless phones stop working, but the corded phone draws its power from the phone line and will continue to work as long as the phone lines are still up….”

        …, and as long as the on-site battery is functional in the case of those with fiber-optic telephone service.

  2. Him holding the phone is an excellent example of how the human brain fails to multi-task. He was time-splicing his OODA. Not good.

  3. While Walgreens has the right to discharge any of its employees for any reason it is certainly disheartening that Hoven is out of the job for what he did. At the very least we can be thankful that he lives in a state where the law is on the side of the armed citizen.

    I guess the perp was fortunate that Hoven didn’t drop the phone because he might have scored a hit if he had gotten a two handed grip…

    • “…Walgreens has the right to discharge any of its employees for any reason…”

      Yes and no.

      Given that the articles seem to suggest that the individual was fired for cause, I think it’s reasonable to assume that it was NOT an at-will employment situation, and that there was some form of formal contract be it written or otherwise. Thus, a proper cause is needed for the firing to be without penalty/liability to the (now former) employer.

      To wit, the two parties seem to be arguing over the cause of the termination, and if it’s as the former employee believes, this could very well be the case that makes or breaks an employer’s right (or lack thereof) to dictate when and/or how their employees can (or in this case, how they cannot) exercise their Constitutional rights.

      IF that is what this case ends up being, it has the potential to set fairly far-reaching legal precedent, and as such it’s important that the right verdict is reached, lest it have negative consequences for the rest of us whether they are intended or not.

  4. Does Walgreen’s non-escalation policy include being shot by robbers? having a policy like this encourages robbers to hit them since there is a better chance they won’t have any trouble doing what they want.

    These guys might have killed the entire store to eliminate witnesses. He saved their lives. If I owned a drugstore I’d hire him today.

  5. Calling the cavalry is an essential step too. As Joe Grine told me, an infantry officer’s most powerful weapon is his radio, calling for air or artillery support. Same thing here.

    • Yes, but I’m pretty sure that when the infantry officer starts taking fire in the open or is threatened with eminent fire, he either tries to take cover (which he can do while still using the radio because it is cordless) or he sets the radio aside and focuses on returning fire.

      • One would think that pulling the phone, dialing 911, and then setting it down would be sufficient. . . particularly if the calltaker heard shots fired on the other end.

  6. I live about 40min from Benton Harbour MI where this happened, and I have to travel their for business a few times a month. I think its a damn shame walgreens did not provide the store with an overnight armed guard (this happened at 4am), and barring that a shotgun under the counter. I fail to see how someone points a gun at you and fires, and you pull a gun and fire, is an escalation?

  7. “the American people have considered the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon. There are many reasons that a citizen may prefer a handgun for home defense: . . . it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.

    From Justice Scalia’s Opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller.

  8. I live is one of the safest neighborhoods in the Twin Cities, have a sister who works the night shift at one down the street, and STILL won’t go into any around here anymore. She says the night manager is the only person who’s suppose to be running the registers during that shift, but I’ve been in there at 3am for emergency toddler relief and seen otherwise. It’s just a matter of time before she has to deal w/ the business end. Sad to say……the only safe people in a Walgreens are the criminals.

  9. Walgreens has a “non-escalation” policy. It’s a shame it conflicts with the natural “non-expiration” policy of folks like the pharmacist.

  10. The liability suit will be astounding if an employee gets shot in a Walgreens store. You don’t permit people to defend themselves and you don’t have any reasonable defense measures planned when you know this store has been attacked before… Seriously? If you don’t allow legal carry in your business, you should be liable for any harm that comes within your doors. I support to right of businesses to disallow weapons on their premises but if they choose that option then they should be responsible for that choice.

    • I would imagine the reason there is a no escalation policy is related to this idea: if an employee escalates the level of violence and a customer is hurt or killed, the company will be the target of lawsuits.

    • “If you don’t allow legal carry in your business, you should be liable for any harm that comes within your doors. I support to right of businesses to disallow weapons on their premises but if they choose that option then they should be responsible for that choice.”


      I generally don’t worry about such policies, as I’ve only seen one or both local malls posted as “no weapons” (tan vinyl on glass at knee-thigh height), and the local Toys R Us (actually posted with a bold and clear sign in the vicinity of 48-60 inches off the ground). Of these two types, the former hasn’t been in evidence at either of the two local malls (or any that I have visited in PA for that matter) within the last year at a minimum, and as for the latter, I couldn’t seen the sign the last time I drove by the TRU so it may no longer be posted…

  11. I think its bean counters trying to spend as little. They treat human lives as parts of a math exercise to see company pay out minimized. They take into account what an average lawsuit would cost for various occurrences.

    I have a buddy who was fired from a bank for something similar. He was held up at the counter and something about the fellow’s body language convinced him that the robber was unarmed. As soon as the robber turned his back and took his hands out of his pockets, he jumped the counter and put the man in a hold. It turns out he was right, the man was unarmed. He kept him subdued until the cops showed. After the robber was hauled of and the money was counted, he was told to pack his things.


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