Ep. 5 Should I Shoot? What If the Crook has a Gun Pointed at the Clerk?

Editor’s Note: The following is a post from Sammy Reese, a former Marine Corps Artillery Officer and retired police officer from California. He is a part-time range master for the police department he retired from as well as a life-long martial artist and combatives coach.

You just topped off your tank and now you need something cold to drink for the ride home. While you are in the back of the gas station pondering what will quench your thirst, you hear someone yell, “Give me the money!” At first, you think it might be on TV, but you quickly realize the store is being robbed.

You are carrying concealed and have to make a split-second decision to intervene on the clerk’s behalf or be a good witness for the responding police. Your most basic instinctual response is to want to help. You could draw your weapon and order the suspect to drop his weapon (if seen) and to lay down on the floor with his hands on his head. We’ve seen this on TV and in movies, so it must work, right?

Food for Thought

The store is being robbed, not you. They have insurance and hopefully a really good camera system to capture the suspect’s image for law enforcement to make a case when he’s caught.

For this argument, let’s say the crook has demanded the cash from the register and has a small pistol in his hand. The clerk is following the company policy of opening the register and getting the cash out. Can you legally use deadly force to protect another from great bodily injury or death? The crook has a gun pointed at the clerk who he’s ordering to hurry up and fill the sack with the cash. This is happening in milliseconds … what to do?

You stay hidden, watching everything you see and hear. The crook exits the store, jumps into a car and drives away. No one is hurt. You, the clerk and the cameras have a great suspect and car description.

What If?

A robber enters a store and demands money from the cash register while pointing a gun at the store employee.

A robber enters a store and demands money from the cash register while pointing a gun at the store employee. (Photo: USCAA)

Let’s say you go with the option to draw your weapon and try to stop the crime in progress. Now the crook has a decision to make — comply or fight his way out.

What if?

I use this while responding to radio calls and you should be using it when you plan for everyday life. What if the crook is part of a team? After all, crabs run in pairs and crooks run in bunches. What, you didn’t notice the layoff guy in the back corner looking at the sunflower seeds? He’s the guy whose job it is to shoot anyone in the back who tries to be a hero and stop the robbery.

What if there is an off-duty police officer in the store that’s being a good witness when you pop out with your gun? Are you really friend or foe? What if you have your wife or child with you and the shooting starts because the crook is a two-striker and has no desire to go back to prison for life? After the shots start flying, who knows where all those bullets are going to go?

There are lots of “what if?” questions here. Hopefully, while hiding behind the candy display, this isn’t the first time you’ve thought about what you are going to do if caught in the middle of a robbery.

Train hard and constantly think about the “what if?” questions and how you will respond. It might not work as you planned, but at least you have a plan, have thought about options and aren’t making it up on the fly.

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Don From CT December 26, 2016, 10:35 am

    The best course of action is to hang back and observe.
    However, if you do decide to engage the robber, you DO NOT order him to stop and drop the gun. If you choose to start a fight, why would you give up your advangage. A far better course of action is to simply draw your weapon and if possible stealthily shoot the guy. In the back if possible.

    Never fight fair if you can avoid it. NEVER EVER!!

    • Don From CT December 26, 2016, 10:35 am

      Oops. I thought the first comment disappeared. Sorry for the duplicate.

    • DAVID P MCCLERNON July 30, 2017, 12:22 am

      Never forget were the round is heading if it should exit the body. If your going to shoot always try to angle it to an area where no one is standing. For instance if you shoot straight into the thug who is standing right in front of clerk you might hit the clerk to if the round exits the thug. Therefore I would angle the round to go in a line of direction to left or right of clerk. Head shots work wonders but are messy. A spinal shot will instantly end his evil ways.

  • Don from CT December 26, 2016, 10:28 am

    I agree that the best course of action is to hang back and observe.

    However, if you do decide to engage the robber, you DO NOT order him to stop and drop the gun. If you choose to start a fight, why would you give up your advangage. A far better course of action is to simply draw your weapon and if possible stealthily shoot the guy. In the back if possible. Never fight fair if you can avoid it. NEVER.

  • billybob December 9, 2016, 10:31 am

    WHO is going to tell the responding police you are not the bad guy !
    Off-Duty Officer Is Fatally Shot by Police in Harlem
    Police officers near the scene where a fellow officer was shot at East 125th Street in Harlem on Thursday night. Credit Patrick Andrade for The New York Times
    Maryland Cop Mistook Plainclothes Officer as ‘Threat’ During Fatal Shooting
    By Meghan Keneally
    Mar 16, 2016, 4:58 PM ET
    A New York City police officer who had just gotten off duty was fatally shot late Thursday in East Harlem by a fellow officer who mistook him for an armed criminal, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said.

  • billybob December 9, 2016, 10:27 am

    Wrong place Wrong Time !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy dropped criminal charges today against DeAngelo L. Davis, a Detroit man accused of murdering Wayne State University Police Officer Collin Rose last month. In a news conference that lasted less than four minutes, Worthy said officers are literally working around the clock to find Rose\\’s killer. Davis, 31, of Detroit is expected to be released today from jail. \\”He is no longer a suspect at this time,\\” Worthy said, flanked by Detroit Police Chief James Craig and Wayne State University Chief Anthony Holt. Worthy answered no questions from reporters at the news conference in her office at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit. In a news release, the …

  • billybob December 9, 2016, 10:25 am

    Good Samaritan shot, run over while trying to help woman who was shot
    Monday, November 28th 2016, 8:09 pm EST
    Tuesday, November 29th 2016, 11:30 am EST
    By Kiran Chawla, Reporter WHO IS GOING TO PAY HIS HOSPITAL BILLS ? IS HE GOING TO HAVE A JOBS MONTHS LATER !Good Samaritan shot trying to stop kidnapping by illegal immigrant, report says
    Published October 09, 2016 FoxNews.com
    High School Student Gets Shot Twice and Run Over After Stopping to Help Dying Woman
    Posted: 9:20 PM, December 01, 2016
    Updated: 9:20 PM, December 01, 2016Good Samaritan Fatally Shot in Texas Wal-Mart Parking Lot After Trying to Stop Domestic Assault: Police Chief
    Posted 4:40 PM, November 25, 2016, by Tracy Bloom, Updated at 04:43pm, November 25, 2016Good Samaritan killed in NC trying to help motorist stuck in snowstormGood Samaritan is shot dead after trying to stop a man beating his wife in the parking lot of a Walmart on Black FridayIsidro Zarate, 39, was in the parking lot of a San Antonio Walmart on Friday
    He spotted a row involving a man and a woman and decided to intervene
    The suspect, Teles Juarez, shot Zarate in the neck and wounded a woman
    Juarez has been arrested and charged with murder an aggravated assaultRead more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3981876/Good-Samaritan-shot-dead-intervening-domestic-violence-row-parking-lot-Walmart.html#ixzz4RrsoCHbQ
    Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook
    SAN ANTONIO – The family of a good Samaritan killed at a Northwest Side Walmart on Vance Jackson near Interstate 10 Friday identified him as 39-year-old Isidro Zarate.
    Police said Zarate was defending a woman who was being assaulted by 21-year-old Teles Juarez.
    More News Headlines
    1 dead, 2 injured in shooting at Northwest Side Walmart
    Zarate’s family said he was a loving father of four adult sons and had been with his wife for 22 years. His wife said he was a peacemaker, which is why she thinks he felt compelled to tell Juarez to “get his hands off” the unidentified female victim of domestic violence.
    \\”He didn\\’t like for a man to beat up on a woman,\\” said Lisa Benavides, Zarate’s wife.
    Police said Juarez shot and killed Zarate and injured two women.Daniel Wesley pulled on a pair of gloves and searched for the woman’s bullet wounds, looking for the best place to apply pressure.
    The 17-year-old didn’t have his EMT certification yet, but in the critical moments after authorities say April Peck was shot by her boyfriend on Sunday, Wesley was all she had.
    Before the teen could do more, Peck’s boyfriend came roaring back in a Chevy Malibu.
    “If you help her, I’m going to kill you,” he said, according to Wesley’s mother, who spoke to the Advocate, a newspaper based in Baton Rouge.
    The boyfriend, Terrell Walker, rammed the car into Wesley, according to the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office. The car pushed him into the side of an arriving ambulance, shattering his arm and snapping his femur, according to a GoFundMe page set up by his family.
    Injured, Wesley crawled to the median. Investigators say Walker pointed his gun and shot the teen twice.

  • Ktcarpentry November 11, 2016, 9:50 am

    It’s the old joke. You have two handguns concealed, a shotgun next to the bed and one in the closet next to the front door. You constantly train and target shoot. What are you so afraid of? Old answer? Not a damn thing.
    My answer? Am I scared of a mugger? Not much. Someone breaking into my house? No. I prepare for that. Would I help the cashier? Probably not. My answer? I am absolutely terrified of the American criminal justice system. It is so broken, liberal politicians doing everything they can to protect and “rehabilitate” violent felons while persecuting honest, well trained citizens. I still remember that the”justice” system is run by politicians, and the only thing politicians truly care about is reelection. It is currently more politically expedient to pander to liberal views than conservative. That ideology may have been thrown out in the last election but, and this is huge, politicians since 1775 have been terrified of armed citizens. Everyone knows gun control causes violent crime. Everyone also knows that an unarmed populace is much easier to control.
    I have resigned myself to harming another human being if my life, or the lives of my family are endangered. However, I have also resigned myself to the fact that I will probably be sitting in prison long after the violent criminals have been released. And if they are all dead, they’re blood sucking family members will sue me into oblivion. There is no winning answer. But, in the end, I would most likely walk away if I was not in imminent danger. That would be the unfortunate alternative to save my family.

    • Ktcarpentry November 11, 2016, 9:53 am

      And…there, they’re, their. Damned autocorrect.

  • John Elliott June 26, 2016, 11:06 am

    The left seems bound and determined to protect law breakers rights to do harm to the innocent. It is only fair that we should counter that threat with an armed response to threats. I am 69 and never thought about owning a gun. Clearly we no longer live in a polite society. Tomorrow I am going to the courthouse to apply for my CCW permit. Then I am going to go shopping for a gun of some sort. I’d rather be safe than sorry, smart than stupid. I still pray for the lost every day.

  • Dan Hudson June 25, 2016, 10:48 pm

    I was that store clerk. The money was in the paper bag. I was sitting on the floor back to the counter – no one could see me. The gun was on my head, cocked and the perp was screaming he was going to kill me. No one was in the store. Headlight swung through the 7-11. Here comes an innocent customer… oh crap. It was my guardian angel, a Vietnam vet with a 1911. he saw the wrong guy and the two registers open and came in with his gun. Perp ran. I am alive. Perp shoot 2 others in another robbery before being caught. I am alive, I am alive, I am alive. I wish I knew my guardian angel’s name. I am convinced that God sent him at just the right moment. He came to my store often in the middle of the night. After the robbery, I never saw him again. April 17, 1:15am, 1981.

  • Mal Cap June 15, 2016, 9:57 am

    Cover and Concealment. May God help the bad guy who gets between me, my exit and Mr. Smith & Wesson.

    • durabo July 9, 2016, 7:58 am

      I agree: try to sneak out, seek cover & concealment and call 911, describing all participants, INCLUDING YOURSELF, in case the SHTF. If the VCA trains his weapon on you, stay alive BY ALL MEANS AVAILABLE (exigent circumstances). In my case, it would be .45ACP in 185 grains ( Cor-Bon DPX).

  • steven deatley June 5, 2016, 1:28 am

    I had a good friend and in 1983 when i left the US Army he was working in a little exxon station along Interstate I77 in Bland,County VA.I asked him one day why he wasn’t armed,it was just him and another guy working there and they both told me that they would carry the cash register out and put it in the car if someone wanted to rob them.Well about 2weeks later someone did rob them and after they had taken less than 400 dollars from them they put them in the cleaning closet and shot them to death.so you do what you like but if i’m in that place when the robber comes in I’m going to fight.and if the single mother of four die’s it won’t be because I was defending myself it will be because a POS decided to break the law.

    • Mikial June 5, 2016, 10:01 pm


      There was a time when the crooks would take the money and go, but any more you can’t be certain that they won’t just murder the poor schmuck whose trying to pay the bills by working night shift at 7-11.

      I make my living trying to teach people how not to get dead through no fault of their own, and I will not stand by and watch someone be murdered for a few dollars by some drug crazed criminal.

      • Dan Hudson June 25, 2016, 10:51 pm

        I was that poor schmuck whose trying to pay the bills by working night shift at 7-11. Gun was cocked and on my forehead. Perp got 33.13. Later he shot 2 others. He went to jail. I am alive thanks to a Vietnam vet who came in with a 1911.

  • Dave326 June 4, 2016, 3:23 am

    The law concerning the authorized use of deadly force is just about the same in most states. Basically, the use of deadly force may be used to counter the use or imminent use of deadly force by an aggressor. It may be used to protect one’s own life, or the life of a 3rd party. Therefore, if an armed criminal is pointing a gun at a store clerk (threatened use of imminent deadly force), an individual may engage that criminal with deadly force. Gun owners should be aware that even if their situation is determined to be lawful, it is still possible that a person may be sued civilly for wrongful death, excessive force, etc. Even if the lawsuit is unsuccessful it will be stressful and possibly costly. Just something else to be aware of, before any decision to drop the hammer on someone.

    • Mikial June 5, 2016, 10:03 pm

      Which is why we should have insurance through an organization like USCCA and have a good gun-friendly attorney on retainer. I do not want to be afraid to save my own or someone else’s life from a criminal because I think I might be sued.

  • Ross Walters June 3, 2016, 9:35 pm

    I try to mind my own business. It’s not my store. If possible I’ll slip out the back door and call 911. I’m no hero.
    However, If forced to fight I’ll do my best to empty my pistol into his carcass as fast as possible. That’s why I attempt to train at least once per month with my carry pistol so I can (hopefully) hit what I am shooting at in the heat of armed confrontation.
    But nobody can be ready for everything and anything at all times. Luck has something to do with it too.

    • Mikial June 5, 2016, 10:04 pm

      True, there is a such a thing as luck . . but we make a lot of our own luck. Once a month is fine, once a week is better.

  • Johnny June 3, 2016, 1:36 pm

    Very well said! There’s always so many variables to exert scenario it’s very tough to give a “shoot or don’t shoot” answer. The point of the sleeper during most robberies is greatly overlooked and not thought about, and as you said “crabs run in pairs,” and have nothing better to do than to think of ways to make sure they get away with the crime they’re looking to commit. Literally 1wk ago today in class the same question was asked, using a bank as an example instead of a conveinince store. When the student couldn’t get a definite yes out of either of us teaching the (CCW) class, he got a little angry. Almost like we weren’t willing to tell him. When I saw that frustration, I began asking very basic questions. “Can you see he has a gun or, could he have his hand in a jacket pocket making it look like a gun? Has he shown violent actions aside from telling the teller to give him the money? Who and/or what is behind the robber? How many other people in the bank, employees &/or patrons? Are you closer to the robber or the door? Is their any cover near by? AND…are you absolutely sure the guy who’s been filling out a deposit slip for the last 20min isn’t the backup waiting to shoot anyone who looks like they’re reaching for a gun?” And one more, as someone who lives in California, a very firearm unfriendly state… What state are you in when this is happening? Is their a stand you ground law? A Make my Day law? Or, like us in a CA, do you live in a “Duty to Retreat” law? I’m sure others could think of a hundred other questions/variables but, that’s what we need to remember. There is no simple shoot or don’t shoot, and it’s also going to come down to the permit holder and the dynamics of their life. We’re allowed to do what any other “reasonable person” would do…what’s reasonable to one may be preposterous to another.

    Great article!!!

  • Rich June 3, 2016, 1:26 pm

    Better plan…back home we had a family business. Under the counter, pointed out at the customers, was a loaded, chambered handgun (not sure I recall the caliber, but large enough). The counter and shelf were both high enough to put your hand on the gun without bending at all. The counter was very thin material. A robber shot square in the groin isn’t going to be much of a problem. No way we would ever give him the contents of the cash register. Never had to fire that weapon, but back there, at that time, the robber would likely expect to get shot.

  • Kuby June 3, 2016, 1:26 pm

    Most all CCW classes (including NRA’s) do NOT teach situational awareness as to how to assess the event and when to act or not act – they teach safety and familiarization.
    In the case above, I’d duck-n-cover while pulling to the ready – shooting only when the perps fire’s the first round. Yup, the clerk might get it, sucks to be them, but I do not know until that moment that an action by me might not set the perp off into a shooting spree. Now if the perp is shooting to eliminate witnesses, I’ll unload on the perp, what do I have to loose and everything to gain. We are not Rambo/007/Jason Bourne – we need to think quickly then act with the single purpose of how best to keep innocent people alive. I’d rather let the perp go then risk a life. Remember the perp is high ion adrenaline or drugs and is agitated/scared we do not want to add to this unless it is fatal for the perp and safe for all others.
    NRA Instr x9, ODNR Hunter Safety Instr, MS-EET, Vietnam Vet, NIS/AFP/MAA

  • Larry June 3, 2016, 11:28 am

    Many years ago, two close friends & fellow officers in a medium sized midwestern town watched an armed robber who had just killed a security guard walk into a fast food restaurant at the height of their business time with the store full of customers. Those two friends were smart enough to not go in after him & create more potential victims. They waited outside & wound up killing him in a firefight in the parking lot.
    I would suggest that you become a damn good witness & not press the issue & give the dirt bag any reason to open fire.

  • pete June 3, 2016, 11:11 am

    But darn it, isn’t the entire reason we untrained amateurs carry is so that we can find an excuse to shoot someone? You’re ruining everything by making this into a ‘common sense’ and responsibility thing!

    • Mikial June 5, 2016, 10:30 pm

      Speak for yourself. Some of us are neither untrained, nor inexperienced, nor looking for an excuse to shoot someone. Go back to Tumblr where you will feel more at home.

      • Ktcarpentry November 11, 2016, 9:36 am

        I don’t know when this was originally posted, but you know he is being sarcastic? Playing devil’s advocate, so to speak.

  • Russ R June 3, 2016, 8:38 am

    and then the Robber shoots the Clerk (who is a single Mother with four small children at home). Thought provoking.

    • Mongo June 4, 2016, 1:14 am

      Or you go to make your move and the single mother of four ends up dead…..
      Tough situation, very thought provoking, I pray we never have to find out

  • Mamamel Pito June 3, 2016, 8:04 am

    DA offices across the country are FILLED with attorneys who hate the 2nd amendment. Good Samaritans are routinely FRIED in court. America has changed. No longer is “doing the right thing” easily defined. Unless YOUR life is in danger, do not draw your gun, just walk away (running would be better) or be prepared to spend all your life savings defending yourself in court answering questions from Monday morning quarterbacks that are trying to nail you to the cross and make an example of you. You have a 1% chance of coming out a “hero” and a 99% one of ending up in jail and losing all your dough!

    • Agibbs June 3, 2016, 11:43 am

      Exactly. Once your gun is drawn at a person, especially if a shot is fired, you’re looking at thousands in legal fees, possibly criminal and civil issues.

      • Andy June 4, 2016, 9:49 am

        …all to try saving someone who would probably vote against your right to keep and bear arms.

  • Browncoat June 3, 2016, 5:59 am

    This video popped up in the same GunsAmerica email as this article… Seems like a perfect example for illustration. The child is ‘safe’ with the parents who appear to be beneath the camera while the thugs are dealing with the clerk and the register. Both thugs have their backs turned for extended periods wherein one, or both, parents could draw if carrying. I’d rather be a live witness than responsible for ‘forcing’ the issue and getting the clerk shot. Or my child. And as USCCA is quick to point out, just because I’m acquitted in criminal court, there’s nothing to stop the thug’s family from suing me in civil court. Case would most likely be dropped but the legal fees…? $$$$$

    • Shah Muhammad II of Khwarazmia (1200-1220AD) June 3, 2016, 10:22 am

      I wouldn’t think a lawsuit against a citizen for using force to intervene to save someone (their’s or other’s) would take very long to get out of court. I think a demurrer or, at most, a motion for summary judgment. The expense would, possibly, be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. Or you could join USCCA and use their insurance.

      Given the choice between a potential nuisance lawsuit and watching people being gunned down, I’d risk the lawsuit. I live on disability, I am judgment proof, so that would affect my decision making process.

  • Clay Hamann June 2, 2016, 7:06 pm

    I drew my sidearm and my phone, and stayed out of sight. I started the video feature on my phone and keep it pointed at the monster. If he leaves the store I follow to the door and video the monsters retreat, whether by foot or vehicle. I make notes following the monster’s departure. Description of vehicle, make, color, 2dr vs 4 dr, distinguishing features, and license plates, number and state of registry. I also note the monster’s description and direction of departure. I do everything that I can think of to be a good witness. I help the clerk lock the door to prevent the monster’s return(happens a lot) and call 911. I am well trained and I know that I could have ended the monster’s life with one shot, but he may have shot the clerk, or others before he breathes his last. Much wiser to ensure safety and be a good witness. Sometimes death must be dealt, but most times there are better alternatives.

    • Oaf June 3, 2016, 12:20 pm


  • DRAINO June 2, 2016, 11:08 am

    Thought Provoking! Good series. Keep them coming.

  • John in Texas June 1, 2016, 6:39 pm

    I’ve thought about this situation a lot, even though I rarely go inside anymore and rarely late at night. I have decided not to put myself into the situation unless the armed robber turns toward me and, of course, after checking on surroundings etc. Of course this means being prepared by drawing my weapon in a way as to not bring attention to myself or scaring other customers. However, there are a lot of variables. I do feel I’ve got myself into the right frame of mind of not being law enforcement.

  • Wii Drider May 31, 2016, 9:33 pm

    Draw, scan, conceal/cover. Do not announce yourself. Move away from door and out of alignment with clerk and BG (clerk may get gun and fire). Scan: eyes and ears (use store mirrors) locate other people, all are potentially hostile until they positively are not! Respond to any threat directed at you. Do not try to exceed your level of training injecting yourself in the situation. Plan for all this to go to hell! Do what you need to do.

    • Steve June 3, 2016, 7:53 am


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