A clerk at a convenience store in Virginia will not be prosecuted for shooting and killing a man who had robbed the store at gunpoint, a grand jury decided this week.
After viewing multiple angles of surveillance video and hearing eyewitness testimony, the grand jury determined that the clerk acted in self-defense when he shot and killed Milton Terrell Gaithers, 35, at the Little B Convenience Store last June.
Video footage shows Gaithers enter the store wearing a black hoodie and a black mask, according to a report from the Southside Messenger. Gaithers struck the clerk in the face with the muzzle of his gun and demanded that the clerk empty the cash register.
Gaithers began to leave after the clerk surrendered the register’s cash and change, but returned to get the money from the lottery register. After stuffing the lottery cash in his bag Gaithers began to leave again, but walked back to the counter a second time to demand a packet of Newport cigarettes.
Gaithers’ repeated returns likely provided partial justification for the clerk’s self-defense case. The clerk testified that after Gaithers finally left the store, he grabbed a .380 handgun and walked to the door because he feared the would-be robber would come back to the counter.
When the clerk saw Gaithers still standing in the parking lot, he fired a warning shot into the air, which was captured on the surveillance footage. Gaithers shot at the clerk over his shoulder, and the clerk returned fire with 4-5 rounds at Gaithers’ fleeing back.
One of the bullets struck Gaithers, and he died shortly thereafter.
Officials told the Messenger that Gaithers had known affiliation with the “Fifth Ward Gang” out of Petersburg according to State Agent Dawn Leslie, and had an extensive criminal record of six felonies, including Drug Distribution Near School Property, Burglary, Grand Larceny, Auto Larceny, Probation Violations, and misdemeanor assaults. He served a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence in 2004 and a year-and-a-half in 2015, as well as briefer jail sentences in between.
Two details from this incident stand out from a self-defense perspective.
First, the Southside Messenger reports that after suffering a fatal gunshot wound Gaithers was still able to run across the rest of the parking lot, across Main Street, and down to Sixth Street until he collapsed in front of the Nazarene Church of Victoria.
Google Maps indicates a distance of approximately 250 ft. between the store and the church, highlighting once again the importance of situational awareness even after a perpetrator has been shot.
Second, the autopsy revealed that Gaithers was struck twice in the back with a .380 caliber bullet, but only one of the shots actually penetrated the skin. The other shot landed on his buttocks and the round fell off his body when police turned him over.