Convenience Store Fatality

This short presentation describes a preventable workplace incident where a worker in Washington State was killed on the job and is narrated by the inspector who conducted the investigation. To view the narration script, click on the button on the lower right hand corner of the screen. To move between slides, or view a particular slide again, click on the same lower right hand corner button and then click on the back and forward arrows at the bottom of the screen.

Convenience Store Clerk Shot by Robber

Hello my name is Dan Pitts, and I am a safety & health specialist with the Department of Labor & Industries, Division of Occupational Safety and Health. In 2009, I investigated the death of a 28 year old convenience store worker who was shot by a young man during a robbery. Since they are open 24 hours a day, convenience stores are vulnerable to robberies because of few customers in late night and early morning hours. Criminals see this as a good time to rob because there are less witnesses, if any at all.

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In this incident, the employee was working alone in a combination gas station/convenience store when a young man entered the store about 6:30 AM. The employee was stocking shelves in the back of the store, so the young man walked behind the counter and attempted to open the store’s cash register. When the employee came from the back of the store, he saw the robber behind the counter and approached him. The robber then pointed his gun at the employee who attempted to grab it. In the ensuing struggle, the robber shot the employee twice and then fled the store. The incident was caught on the store security camera as shown in the video clip in the next slide.

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Witnesses called 911, and the employee was taken to the hospital, where he later died from his gunshot wounds. The robber, just 17 years old, was picked up by police the next day and after questioning admitted shooting the employee. He told the police he thought he would just show the store clerk his gun, and the clerk would hand over the money. He said that when the employee charged at him and tried to grab the gun, he became frightened and tried to shoot the clerk in the leg. Of course, there is no way to know just what the robber planned, but certainly trying to grab a gun or otherwise physically struggling with an armed person often leads to violence and harm to a worker. The young robber was charged and eventually convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to 27 years in prison. The video on the next slide will show how this type of situation should be handled.

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Narrator: “You can best control the situation by letting the robber think he is in complete control of the situation, by completing cooperating with him. Be as cool and calm as you can be and keep him from getting more nervous than he already is. As soon as he makes his intentions known……” Robber: “Give me your money right now.” Narrator: “Assure him of your cooperation.” Store Clerk: “ I’ll do whatever you say.” Robber: “Hurry up – lets go.” Narrator: “ Calmly explain your every move to him.” Store Clerk: “I’m going to walk over the cash register, nice and easy.” Narrator: “All the time take mental notes of the robber’s description, voice, mannerism, anything you notice about him.” Store Clerk: “When I open it, it is going to make a ringing sound, so don’t be alarmed.” Narrator: “Act as normal and possible an be as comforting to him as you can. Avoid staring at him, but don’t be afraid to make occasional eye contact. Robber: “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up – give to me, c’mon.” Narrator: “You may or may not see a gun, but assume he has one. Explain that there are others in the store, so there are no surprises. Explain everything you do, so nothing makes the robber jump in surprise.” Store Clerk: “ It’s all in there.” Robber: “Is this all you have? O.K., what about the safe?” Store Clerk: “Employees aren’t allowed to open the safe.” Robber: “Alright…..” (walks away)

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In 2002, L & I adopted the Late Night Retail Workers Crime Prevention Rule to address the real hazard of working alone in convenience stores. Obviously, robberies at convenience stores cannot be prevented by safety and health rules. But employee training can go a long way to preventing an outcome like this incident. A good example of how a large corporation prepares for robberies is the convenience store chain, 7-Eleven. The corporation has nation wide procedure steps that are discussed with each employee upon his/her arrival and during their training. Employees are instructed to obey the robber and warn him/her of any surprises so they remain calm. In addition, workers are told to keep the interaction short, in order to reduce the risk of any harm being done. Finally, they are told to not fight, argue, or use weapons against the attacker. These steps often save the lives of employees in robbery situations. Let's keep Washington Safe and Working by providing appropriate workplace violence prevention training for employees in convenience stores.