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Another convenience store robbery ends with gunfire

ST. PETERSBURG — Four convenience store clerks were gunned down last month even though they did nothing to resist the men who robbed them.

But when Watson's Food Town was robbed Sunday night, police say, a store clerk fought back.

This robbery, though, ended just like the rest — with a gunshot.

The clerk was shot by two masked men who robbed the 3311 Fifth Ave. N store at 8:12 p.m., police say.

Alarm rang out in the community of store owners that yet another robbery has ended in bloodshed.

"I'm really shocked to hear this," said store owner Sid Shah, a spokesman for the Asian American Convenience Stores Association. "Somebody has to come up with some kind of names for these (robbers.)"

One of the Sunday robbers was armed with a gun, according to police, and the other with a knife.

The clerk, who was not identified by police, tried to wrest the knife away from one robber. The struggle ended when the other robber shot the clerk in the foot.

They took off with a small, undisclosed amount of cash. Officers responding to a store alarm found the injured clerk. He was taken to a local hospital with injuries that weren't life-threatening, police said.

Watson's Food Town was also the scene of a shooting in 2003, one that left owner Muhammad Haider dead at age 49.

His killer was sentenced to life in prison. Police do not know if Haider resisted or cooperated with the gunman moments before he was killed. It was unclear Monday whether Haider's family still owns the store.

Resisting a robbery is an understandable impulse, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Bill Doniel — but one that should be resisted at all costs.

"There's really no amount of money that's worth your life," he said.

Five clerks have now been shot in the armed robberies of three St. Petersburg convenience stores and one Gulfport store since November.

Brothers Narendra and Indravadan Patel were robbed and shot in their respective stores on Dec. 1 and Dec. 3. Then on Dec. 22 clerks Thanh Hoang and Tien Tran were shot and robbed in front of Hoang's three young children. All four victims survived.

Last week St. Petersburg police Maj. Mike Puetz told the St. Petersburg Times there could be a strong link among those three robberies: the perpetrators had similar descriptions, and the victims were all shot without warning. But he also said investigators still need the public's help to solve those crimes.

Police released few details Monday about this latest robbery, including whether they suspect any links to last month's shootings. It is not known what events led up to the clerk's scuffle with a robber, or if there were any other witnesses. An employee at Watson's Food Town declined to comment Monday.

Shah's association represents more than 1,000 convenience store owners in Tampa Bay and Central Florida. They are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the robbers in last month's attacks.

At this month's meeting, Shah will tell his fellow owners that they need to take stronger measures:

"I'm going to recommend to our board that all the store owners carry a gun now."

Staff writer Kameel Stanley contributed to this report. Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8472.

. FAST FACTS

You can help

St. Petersburg police are asking anyone with information about Sunday's robbery or any other robberies to call (727) 893-7780.

On the Web

For previous coverage and video of recent store shootings in St. Petersburg, go to links.tampabay.com

Another convenience store robbery ends with gunfire 01/19/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 11:01pm]
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