Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Riverside, California

From the December 7, 2005 Riverside Press-Enterprise:
RIVERSIDE - A 36-year-old liquor-store clerk who police said shot two armed robbers Monday night, killing one, does not believe he is a hero.

One customer after another congratulated the man as they purchased lottery tickets and beverages Tuesday at Alessandro Liquor, in the 1000 block of Alessandro Boulevard.

The man, a Syrian immigrant who asked that his name not be used out of fear of retribution, said he simply did what was necessary to save his life and the life of his 22-year-old girlfriend.

"I feel so bad that guy got killed," said the clerk, who was not injured. "I didn't mean to do this. He pushed me to it. I feel sorry for him and for his family. I didn't go to him; he came to me with his gun. Whatever I did, I did to protect my life."

Marshawn Burns, a 29-year- old Moreno Valley man, has been identified by authorities as the deceased man. Three women outside of Burns' south Moreno Valley home declined to comment Tuesday afternoon.

The other suspect, whose name has not been released, was critically wounded, said Sgt. John Capen of the Riverside Police Department.

The injured man escaped in a waiting Suburban. A man with similar wounds turned up later at Riverside County Regional Medical Center in Moreno Valley claiming to have been shot in a park, Capen said. A nurse reported the man to police. Investigators are also seeking the driver.


The clerk has lived in the United States since 1996 and in the Riverside area for the last two years. With tears welling in his eyes, the man vividly described the robbery attempt and shooting Tuesday afternoon.

The man said he and his girlfriend were alone inside the store about 9:45 p.m. when two armed men burst through the door. One of the men immediately pointed a gun at the clerk's head, threw him to the floor and demanded money.

The other gunman grabbed the woman as she ran for an office to try to set off an alarm. The second man told her to open the cash register after he bound the woman's hands with duct tape, the clerk said.

After taking the cash, one of the robbers demanded more money and the clerk said there was none.

One of the robbers told the clerk, who was lying face-down on the floor, to open his mouth, he said. The clerk, who had been on his stomach, managed to turn around and was lying on his back when he grabbed the robber's gun and pushed it away from his face. At that point, he said, the clerk reached back for a gun he kept at his waistband.

"I told him, 'You don't need to do this. Just take the money and run,' " the clerk said. "I thought, 'If he takes my gun, he's going to shoot me for sure.' I thought I was going to be dead."

The clerk pulled his gun and shot the first robber in the throat, he said. The robber staggered backward, fell down and pointed his gun at the clerk, who then shot a second time.

The clerk saw the second robber point his gun at him, so he shot him, he said. As the second robber began running, he pointed his weapon at the clerk again, so the clerk shot him a second time, he said. The second man then ran out the door.

The cashier said he was armed because the store had been robbed three weeks earlier.

"I didn't want to do this," the clerk said. "I need to live safe, take care of my business and take care of my family. It's a bad thing. It's bad. It's very bad. I don't like what happened. I'd like it if the guy was still alive."

Investigators believe the same suspects may be responsible for several other armed robberies in the Riverside area, Capen said.

Authorities, who must decide whether the killing was justified, are investigating the shooting.

To be ruled a justifiable homicide, the district attorney's office must determine if a reasonable person would have taken the same action in a similar situation, according to district attorney's spokeswoman Ingrid Wyatt.

Capen said he believed the clerk legitimately feared for his life.

"He's distraught," Capen said. "He didn't want to kill anybody. He honestly believed that he was going to be killed."

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