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Personal Defense Chronicles: Vape Shop Clerk Shoots Two of Three Armed Robbers, Killing One

Image by Boch. Base image via Rock Island PD Facebook.
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Three masked thugs stormed into Blackhawk Tobacco and Vape Shop in Rock Island, Illinois last week. It was the third armed robbery for the store in the past few months. This time, though, a gun near the cash register leveled the playing field.

The clerk saw an opportunity to access the gun, and he came up shooting. He hit two of the three thieves, killing one who later died at a hospital.

In an interview with the local media, the clerk who defended himself said the robbers had the gun right in his face. “This man looked me in the eye” and asked him if he wanted to go home to his family.

The clerk said as the robbers were about to leave, one aimed a gun at a customer pulling up to the door. “And that’s when I emptied the magazine into him.”

WEEK has the story and the video of the interview with the clerk . . .

A store clerk in Illinois shot and killed an armed robbery suspect and will not be facing charges at this time.

“After a preliminary review of surveillance video and witness interviews, it appears the use of force by the employee was justified as self-defense and for the defense of others inside the store during the robbery,” Rock Island County State’s Attorney Dora Villarreal said.

The store clerk explained to KWQC why he pulled the trigger.

The incident occurred Tuesday night at Blackhawks Tobacco & Vape in Rock Island, Illinois. According to police, three robbery suspects, all wearing masks, entered the store. One of them had a gun.

As they threatened employees and demanded merchandise, the store clerk, who asked to remain anonymous, decided he had to open fire.

The Rock Island County State’s Attorney has released a statement saying the use of force by the clerk “appears to be justified” and that no charges will be filed against the clerk. The clerk quit his job the same night.

Again, from WEEK.

“I almost died twice yesterday, man, with the gun in my face, and I could have gone to prison and lost my whole life. I just put an end to it and told them I was done. It is what it is,” he said.


Also a pro-tip: Never speak to the media in the aftermath of a defensive gun use. There’s literally no upside at all in doing so.



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  1. “I almost died twice yesterday, man, with the gun in my face, and I could have gone to prison and lost my whole life. I just put an end to it and told them I was done. It is what it is,” he said.”

    That’s laying down some strong truths. Glad he made through alive and unscathed.

    • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

      “…and I could have gone to prison and lost my whole life.”


      Was he also dealing heroin while tending the till at the vape shop?

      (An over-zealous prosecutor *could* have charged him, but the chances of that happening were very low, especially if video was recording the armed robbery…)

    • Update to the story. The 3rd perp who had the firearm was apprehended yesterday in Davenport, Ia. on a parole violation and is awaiting extradition to Rock Island, Ill. on Aggravated Armed Robbery charges.

        • asolutely. It was HIS display of HIS firearm that triggered the use of deadly force by the employee. Armed robbery is a feloy crime, and someone died during the commissin of one making everyone “participating” in the putative heist culpable for the death. Murder IS indicated.
          He usta beat feet pretty quickly, getting to Iowa that fast wiht his precious little heater. WOnder how LE connected HIM in Iowa, with that “job”. But glad they did. Dirtbags like him NEED to spend some time in those special apartments they have for his kind.

        • As of last news report that determination had not been made yet by the Rock Island Ill. State’s Attorney. Remember this is in Illinois.

        • I’m making 150 D0IIars an hour w0rking from h0me. I was sh0cked when my friend told me that she was maklng D0Ilars 17381/m just from her h0me 0nLlne. Then this completely changed my Llfe. F0r Details… http://Todayz50.cf

  2. Yet another case of substantiating Kleck

    According to Kleck’s “Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America” – the leading authority on the subject of compliance:

    1. Any form of resistance, except with firearm, carries with it an injury rate of 52%.

    2. Resistance with a firearm carried with it the risk of injury of 17%, but use of a firearm early in an encounter carries with it a risk of injury of 6%.

    Overall, in Kleck, you have a minimum of a 25% chance of being injured if you comply, but you are 4 time less likely to be injured if you have your firearm and are prepared to use it.

    Take away here summary: compliance may still result in injury (which includes death), resistance without a firearm carries a 52% chance of injury (which includes death), resistance with a firearm lowers chance of injury (which includes death) to 17%, resistance with a firearm early in the encounter further lowers risk of injury (which includes death) to 6%

    If you are armed are you willing to gamble that you are not in the 25%?
    if you are not armed are you willing to gamble that you are not in the 52%?

    Compliance or not, resistance or not – is not a decision one needs to make. The answer is already provided, non-compliance via firearms resistance offers the best chance of less injury. But if you want, you can roll the dice and take the chance of being a good-n-dead witness.

      • “I’m sure you have a point but I cannot figure what it could be.”

        It’s a riff on myself in another thread. (SHOT Show: EAA / Girsan MCP35 Hi-Power Pistol), regarding fascination with firearms not made in the US.

        • And I was wondering why so many Browning Hi-Power clones suddenly appearing. Classic design but so many other options available that are lighter, smaller, and have more capacity.

        • Nostalgia is a very powerful emotion in some. There are those that yearn after fabric-and-wood biplanes with rotary piston engines and propellers, horseless carriages with crank start, magneto ignition, and total-loss lubrication, and there are those that must have a handgun designed for an era when horse cavalry was a going concern.
          Next up, disease control with leeches, lancets, and mercury compounds.

        • @Southern Cross

          Like Gallagher (the comedian) used to say…”Ya gotta have style!”

          Everyone should have at least one firearm that represents classic styling. For me that is a 1911 manufactured in 1914 and a Hi-Power manufactured around 1960. I keep these, not because of their capacity etc, but, because, in my eyes, they have “style”…that indefinable, individual and unique quality that elicits a positive response from the person looking at or holding said item.

        • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

          John – Ever had a ride in a two-hole radial-engine biplane? The wooden stick is a different experience than a yoke, and in a good way… 🙂

        • My “daiy cpmpanion” is not made in the uS. Made in Belgium, mid 1960’s. It is full sized, full capacity, ragged thus cheap, but very comfortable. I’m not into “style” at all, nor what’s “popular”< whater that means. It fitS my hand, points naturally, is easy to carry despite being all steel full sized five inch barrel and double stack mag.

          I had selected and put on layaway a new Springfield HDX when it was on sale. Before I could pay off and redeem the ting, I had a chance to hold the High Power. I wondered how it was that ol' John Moses had sneaked up and custom designed that piece special for ME, it was so perfect and intuitive. I bought it and have never regretted it. I bailed out the Spfd but never fired it. Had found a pair of extra mags on sale, genuine. Couple months later a friend asked me if I knew of any handguns for sale, a nine. What are yuo looking for? He named some including mine. Not on sale any more, and with two price increases since I'd bought it, still new in the box never fired, he gave me a chunk above what I had in it, including the sparae mags. Break my heart. I've since found half a dozen more of the BHP's, varous finishes, etc, for very reasonble proces. So "if anything happenes' to my personal friend, I've got plenty of his brothers to immediately do a stand=in.

          It aint "style" its form, fit, function, heft, everythihg else. And I care even less what anyone else thinks about them. Bee part of me now for some fifteen years… not a whole long time, but long eough. If all mine would disappear, Id just go find more.

        • Old Guy, I agree on the classic charm of the originals.

          I was wondering why about the influx of the HP clones. Several of them very recently.

        • @Southern Cross

          (just a guess)
          Because, sooner or later, everything old is new again. A new generation discovers something their elders already knew or had forgotten.

          I recently picked up one of the SA-35 clones. I like it, even though it has been back to SA for an extraction issue (which they seem to have corrected). The finish is decent, feels like an original BHP in the hand and when firing. Handles JHP’s and P ammo with aplomb…unlike the original. Very nice, in a slightly different way than the original. Think I’ll keep both.

    • Bad guys don’t care what country their gun came from.

      Bad guys don’t care what country your gun came from.

      What ever the country manufacturing origin of the gun, once it gets in your hand it comes from your country.

      I’m not sure what you have against Turkey. A well prepared Turkey, some good dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and all the other trimmings makes for a great meal and … oh wait, that’s not what you meant.

  3. I love stories with happy endings. When do they give this clerk an award? He deserves at least a minor medal for his public service. Maybe the ‘Illinois Public Service Honorable Mention Award’?

    • Maybe there is some money from the city trash department that can be diverted into giving a “Taking out the trash” civics award.

      • Yeah, how much money has he saved tax payers – not having to keep that POS fed for the next 65 years?

  4. That’s quite the exterior of the Rock Island vape shop. Is RI a high crime mecca? Went there when I was a kid. Good on the dude who shot the pos…

    • Yes. Little Chiraq. Likely I know the FD EMS guys. NONE of who live in the cesspool that employs them.

      Clerk at a “VAPE” show would be a very poor employment/life choice. Every retailer in the midwest is begging for clerks to apply/work. “more to the story”?

    • Rock Island was a typical Midwest town when I visited many moons ago. I doubt that much has changed.

      • Wrong. It’s the crappiest of the IL quad cities. Not as bad as Davenport across the river, but it sucks. Might still be few okay areas, but it’s had bad areas at least as far back as mid 80’s. (E.g. FD wouldn’t go to a gas leak at Arsenal Courts for 45 mins until PD was there in force).

  5. “One. There was a time when I would have caught all three.”

    — Lee (Robert Vaughn) The Magnificent Seven

    • Ralph,

      On a serious note:

      This is the latest in countless armed robberies of small businesses. I am seriously wondering if armed cashiers would improve their odds of survival if they kept a .44 Magnum revolver (loaded with 180 grain hollowpoints) at the ready rather than some generic semi-auto pistol chambered in 9mm Luger.

      Hear me out. We all know that 9mm semi-auto pistols are a fair self-defense platform. And the reality of 9mm is that a defender will have to hit their attacker in the head/spine once or the body several times to promptly incapacitate the attacker. Compare that to .44 Magnum where I have to think that a single torso hit from an expanding .43 caliber, 180 grain hollowpoint bullet will immediately put-down the attacker. (That bullet will impact at 1,600 feet-per-second–that is 1023 foot-pounds energy!)

      Assuming the element of surprise and an engagement distance of less than 10 feet (which is almost guaranteed), an armed defender should typically have no trouble putting that first shot into one attacker’s torso (“center mass”). Then the only question is how quickly the armed defender can put a follow-up shot into the second attacker, and so on.

      • Unfortunately in most cases the clerks at many of these stores could Never handle a .44 Magnum. Many even with training would be hard pressed to even handle a 9mm. Especially in the high stress situation of having a gun shoved in their face. While in principle it sounds like a good idea. it just isn’t practical in every case. I’m not saying if an employee is confident in their ability and has the proper training it shouldn’t be allowed. This was Not your average owner and obviously felt comfortable leaving a firearm in the store for his employees to use in case of such activities as that took place. Unfortunately Owners such as this are few and far between. Mostly because of the Legal Liability in Our highly Litigious Society.

      • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

        The *BOOM*! of .44 mag is instant, permanent hearing damage.

        I have a ‘pill-bottle’ wipe can in NFA jail for my Beretta 21A ‘Covert’ with a threaded barrel… 🙂

      • Not many store clerks are three hundred fifty poind gorillas, nor have many spent hours on the range perfecting their shot placement under duress, or otherwise, and even more rarely second and on followup rounds.

        Stick wiht the Nine. At those close ranges, downrange engergy is not much of an issue, shot placement under panic/duress will be better, particulalryh for follow on shots, than with your monster .44Mag. Unless shop owner is willing to fork for a few days training and conditioning at the range the foatifouah will be a one shot affair, whether the perp is downed or not Recovering from one round by someone unpracticed will simply not happenll

  6. The clerk said as the robbers were about to leave, one aimed a gun at a customer “

    Sounds like manslaughter in the 1st degree. To quote Kenosha ADA Kraus, “everyone takes a punch in the face sometimes…”

    • Sounds like manslaughter .
      That’s the problem, should be if you rob someone and that someone chases you down the street and shoots you in the back , tuff luck robber man.

    • He was found dead in a McDonald’s parking lot in Davenport Iowa and later pronounced at the hospital. Remember Journalism doesn’t always require correct spelling, grammar or even facts on occasion. Depending on the Political affiliation of the reporting news agency.

  7. “The clerk quit his job the same night.”

    Smart move. Convenience store jobs are a dime a dozen. Not worth what he had to deal with there. Besides, there’s also the possibility this last batch of criminals have associates looking for payback.

  8. Good outcome. Incomplete, sure, but the good guy survived and the bad guys lost some.

    Yup, on the whole, a good outcome.

  9. @Tionico
    “I’ve since found half a dozen more of the BHP’s,…”

    Praeclarus !!

    And from a non-belligerent country.

  10. “And that’s when I emptied the magazine into him.” is not a phrase you want to utter after a shooting. Not to the police, not to the media, not to anyone.

    Don’t forget how many times a legitimate, legal defensive shootings has nonetheless led to charges or- more commonly- an expensive civil trial even if you win

    STFU after a shooting.

  11. “A gun near the cash register”? Bad idea but better than no gun at all. Guy was probably making $15 an hour. No surprise he quit. Also the shop was probably laid out to where he had to turn his back to the “customer” to get items off a shelf and no other employee to watch his back. Just conjecture but I see it all the time at every stop and rob shop also known as a convenience store. The cigz and vape stuff is behind the counter behind the clerk. Think about it.

  12. I am not blaming the clerk. Certainly, he was placed in an awkward situation by his employer. However, the employer should definitely be taken to task for the event.

    If you cannot properly train your staff, then you are to blame. Possibly, offering a range day or a huge discount on ammunition would be a start. Not every employer can afford to send their staff to Taran Tactical or Front Sight for a week. Even then, the week of training is only a nexus event in the ongoing training requirement.

    We have to admit that he failed on 2/3 of the mission. However, better luck next time.

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