A store owner copes with fatal shooting of would-be robber

SEFFNER — At their grandmother's funeral in January, a cousin told Kenny Heidkamp to quit drugs.

"You can't keep running around doing what you're doing, or you'll get yourself killed," the cousin recalls saying.

By then, a store owner named Cres Vigil had already armed himself with a gun, worried that he and his wife were vulnerable to robbers, who had struck once.

Heidkamp and Vigil met Monday in a robbery at Vigil's store. Heidkamp, 19, smashed Vigil in the head with a can of beans stuffed into a sock.

Vigil responded with deadly gunfire, which the sheriff's and state attorney's offices continue to investigate.

"I feel bad for the guy," said Vigil, head lowered in his driveway. "I didn't want to kill him, but it's my life, too. If he had a gun, he would have got me."

Vigil, 46, bought the store about two years ago after arthritis made it hard to climb ladders and install cables as a computer networker. He named it CNK Beverage Pit Drive Thru after the initials of his family members and worked 12 hours a day in the barn-like building, which carried $3.39 Camel cigarettes.

Homeless people lived in the nearby woods. Vigil told them not to panhandle but gave them pocket money to help clean the grounds and cut the grass. He helped one man find his family.

He bought a suit for a customer to wear to a funeral, Vigil's wife, Karla, said.

He rarely left the store except one day last year, when he took the family pit bullterrier, Khy — whose face adorns the store sign — to the vet. Karla filled in. A masked man put a gun to her side in an attempted robbery. She screamed, and the man fled.

Vigil regretted leaving her alone. He made someone stay with her at the store. He also bought a .380 and kept it near him at work.

• • •

When Heidkamp was 10, his parents sent him from New Bedford, Mass., to Dover to live with his aunt and uncle. His parents used drugs, his cousin Daniel Ruddell said. Heidkamp's aunt and uncle took custody.

"He was my buddy," said Ruddell, seven years older. "If he said something and he hurt your feelings, he would be in tears."

But Heidkamp couldn't stay out of trouble. He dropped out at 16, tattooed a gang-related cross on his right arm and befriended members of the Sur 13 gang.

His aunt and uncle sent him back to Massachusetts at 17 to live with his grandparents, but he returned a year later and moved in with a girlfriend.

Heidkamp's mother died six years ago, and his father died this year, Ruddell said. Heidkamp worked briefly with an electrician, but his girlfriend paid the bills, Ruddell said.

He had last advertised his mood as "high" on his MySpace page. Last month, he was charged with domestic violence battery. It was a misdemeanor and his only arrest in Florida, according to state records.

• • •

Vigil had set up motion alarms at the store to notify him of customers, but the alarms didn't go off Monday night, he said.

A pickup at the front distracted him as a masked man sneaked past the cigars and chips in the back and slugged him with the sock of French-cut beans.

Vigil remained standing while the man moved a few feet back and raised the sock again. Vigil said he fired twice. He said he thought he missed the man, who began to run. He fired three more times, he said. The man collapsed about 75 feet away.

Vigil called 911.

Heidkamp was pronounced dead at a hospital. Authorities said he had been shot in the side.

• • •

Vigil took the day off Tuesday. His wife and a clerk filled in for him. He said his head was bruised, but it was the experience that really shook him.

"I'll probably go back to work tomorrow," he said. "I can't just sit around and think about it. … Just replaying in my mind. … Why did that guy have to come in? Why did he have to do that?"

He never saw the man's face. He didn't approach him on the ground. He said he didn't want to know his name.

"Not really," Vigil said. "He could be somebody around the neighborhood."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or jgeorge@sptimes.com.

A store owner copes with fatal shooting of would-be robber 05/27/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 30, 2008 7:57pm]

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