A trio allegedly responsible for 11 armed robberies over the past two weeks in Paterson, New Jersey, had their luck cut short when one victim, a store clerk armed with a handgun, decided to fight back Tuesday evening.
According to the Paterson Times, the string of robberies came to a close when two of the suspects, 23-year-old Jermaine Eason and 23-year-old Rayvon Wilson, both armed and wearing masks, entered Paterson’s El Jaya Deli & Grocery around 8 p.m. The owner of the store, who was behind the cash register, said one of the suspects kept an eye on two employees in the back of the store while the other was up front pointing a handgun at him.
The robbers then ransacked the store making off with $6,500 and several cartons of cigarettes, but as they made their way out the door an employee, the owner’s cousin, grabbed a gun, which he kept hidden behind the register, under a shelf of socks, and proceeded to chase the suspects.
On the sidewalk near the store he opened fire, the owner recounted. “I think I got one of them,” his cousin told him as he reentered the bodega.
Police later pulled over the suspects’ getaway car where they found Eason with a gunshot wound in his lower back. While Eason was taken to the hospital for treatment and was said to be in critical but stable condition, Wilson and the driver, 22-year-old Clara Amala, were promptly arrested.
Eason was charged with 11 counts of robbery, Wilson was charged with six counts of robbery and Amala was charged with eight counts of robbery in connection with some of the bodega holdups.
But the story doesn’t end there, in fact, it gets a little more complicated. While the shooter has not been charged for the shooting, according to the Paterson Times, police are questioning whether or not it was justified for the simple fact that he grabbed his gun after the suspects had left and went outside after them.
The newspaper reported that under New Jersey law “a person can use force to defend himself only if it is “immediately necessary” to protect from an assailant’s use of unlawful force.” Or in other words, if the employee shot the robber inside the store during the robbery it would be easier to prove that it was, in fact, self-defense.
“I’m not sure in any state there’s ‘Stand your ground and then go defend the pride of your ground outside,’” local defense attorney Jef Henninger, who has litigated dozens of self defense cases, told the newspaper. “It’s kind of a step to leave that threshold — that door is really the crux of the case.”
However, in all the incidents the robbers were armed and dangerous. Just minutes before robbing El Jaya Deli & Grocery, the two suspects robbed a store just down the street called Pily’s Grocery, but that incident ended with the two employees who were working at the time, Carlos Encarnacion and Jorge Baez, going to the hospital. Baez was pistol whipped and suffered a severe gash on his head, which he needed five stitches to close.
While the employees at El Jaya Deli & Grocery didn’t know what had happened beforehand, they were on edge as they had already been robbed three times this year.
The shooter was “feeling extremely stressed” after the incident and was taken to the hospital. The owner returned home to a crying wife and two children. He said, “It was terrible. I don’t want it to happen to anybody. My life was about to end … I don’t know how we’re going to go through with this.”
On the other hand, Baez and Encarnacion were released with a clean bill of health. Baez had this to say about the armed civilian: “The guy up the street is a hero.” That’s no small compliment considering that the two stores are rivals.
In fact, Baez might even take a page out of their book. He said that he is considering buying a gun to protect the store in the future.
Crime sprees can make a community nervous. How would our readers react in a situation like that? If your neighborhood has been plagued by a string of robberies, would that make you more likely to open fire on potential intruders? Or would you react the same way with or without a crime spree?