Friday, February 15, 2008

Wilmington, Delaware Liquor Store Owner Shoots Robber

Wilmington, Delaware

From the February 15, 2008 Wilmington News Journal:

It took seven shots from Bernis Martin's Smith & Wesson M&P 9 mm pistol before the Wilmington merchant hit his target. And he felt vindicated afterward.

"I had one robbery attempt before, but he wasn't able to get anything," Martin said Thursday night, standing inside his BGM Liquor Store at 11th and Lombard streets. "This time I have some vengeance because he did get hit."

Martin was speaking the day after he fended off a robbery with his handgun, clipping one of four fleeing suspects and sending the others banging on doors crying for help.

Wilmington police took his weapon as evidence in the 10 p.m. shooting, but filed no charges against the store owner for wounding a 15-year-old suspect in the right thigh.

Police said the wounded youth was arrested at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland, Pa., where he allegedly went for treatment. Three others charged with trying to rob Martin as he was leaving his store were arrested in the neighborhood.

Before their arrests, two of the suspects were heard banging on rear doors, shouting, "Open the door, let me in," said Wilmington Master Sgt. Steven Barnes.

Police said it was the 15-year-old who was later wounded who approached Martin as he was leaving the store and demanded money.

"I was startled when I saw him," Martin said. "He looked like he might have been startled, too. He had a hood covering his head and a white-and-black bandanna on his face. He said 'Give it up, old head,' " Martin, 53, said from behind the glass door that separates him from the customers he serves. Several loyal patrons came by to check on him Thursday night.

Martin said the only reason he was caught off guard was because he was headed to his second job as a technician for Chrysler in Newark. He wanted to rush to the store to get his wife some roses for Valentine's Day.

"I was behind these pillars, so I guess he couldn't see me. He said, 'What you doing?' I guess when I didn't answer he shot at me. That's when I shot back," Martin said. He said he has applied for a permit to carry the gun which he holsters on his hip.

Police said the youngster shot at Martin with a .22-caliber rifle, which they recovered in making the arrests after officers responded to a call of shots fired in the area of 10th and Pine streets.

As responding officers ran to the corner where the shooting happened, they saw two people running and chased them to rear yards in the 1000 block of Lombard St., where both were arrested.

Detectives later learned that the 15-year-old had turned up at the hospital, telling medics he was wounded in downtown Wilmington near Fifth and Orange streets. Detectives went to the hospital, interviewed the teen and brought him back to Wilmington to face charges.

The fourth participant, a 17-year-old boy, was arrested after officers raided a home in the 1000 block of Lombard St.

The two teens, along with Christopher Whittaker, 20, of the 300 block of Rolling Green, in New Castle, and Cory Clark, 20, also of the 1000 block of Lombard St., were charged with first-degree robbery, possession of a firearm during a felony, reckless endangering and conspiracy.

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