Ohio CHL-holder stops robbery; defends lives

May 11, 2004
Toledo Blade

2 charged in carryout heist foiled by armed store clerk

Two men were charged yesterday in the robbery of a West Toledo carryout during which one of them was shot twice by a store employee.

Detectives said they issued a warrant charging Jose J. Custodia-Mota, 22, with aggravated robbery. He was taken to Toledo Hospital after being shot once in the leg and once in the shoulder. A hospital spokesman said she had no information on a patient by that name.

His accused getaway driver, Alberto Martinez, 32, who gave Lucas County jail officials a Toledo address, was arraigned on the same charge in Toledo Municipal Court. He was being held in the jail in lieu of $50,000 bond. Police believe both suspects are from Columbus. The 23-year-old employee, Habib Howard, whose family owns the store, Howard's Carryout, 3730 Monroe St., was not hurt. Authorities said he used his handgun during the shooting, and he has a carry-concealed weapon permit that he obtained in Fulton County.

Mr. Howard's father, Herbie, said yesterday his son received the permit three days ago. He said his son was "quite shook up" about the incident.

"It's a very upsetting thing to defend your life," Herbie Howard said. He said his son declined to comment. Herbie Howard said his son had just relieved a female employee at the register, and she was stocking the cooler when the incident occurred Sunday night.

Police said the robber entered, pulled out a handgun, and demanded money. Habib Howard handed him money, and the robber took the cash and a 12-pack of beer.

When the man turned to leave, he took a couple of steps and opened the door to leave. Habib Howard pulled out his gun and said something. The robber turned and pointed his weapon at him, Detective Paul Tetuan said.

Habib Howard fired four shots, injuring the robber and breaking the glass in the front door. The man stumbled to the getaway car, and an accomplice took him to a nearby home. Another person, whom police declined to identify, took the wounded robber to the hospital, the detective said.

He said the robber dropped the money and beer as he fled. It does not appear the robber fired any shots, Detective Tetuan said.

Fulton County Sheriff Darrell Merillat said this is the first time he's heard of this situation occurring since the carry-concealed law went into effect last month. No permits have been issued yet to applicants in Lucas County, sheriff's Lt. Greg Wojciechowski said.

Herbie Howard said the company, American Petroleum, and family feel "very badly" for the families of the two men involved in the robbery.

"My son did what he had to do. Fortunately, this gentleman didn't die," he said.

He said he prays his son does the same thing if he finds himself in a similar situation again. He also said employees are instructed to be cooperative with a robber.

"Money can be replaced; lives can't," Herbie Howard said.

Toledo has been having a HUGE problem with carryout robberies. Many defenseless employees have been victimized, and at least one killed.

The Toledo Police told store owners to install better security equipment, so they could have an easier job of ID-ing the perpetrators after they responded to the scene of whatever damage and destruction was left behind by the criminals.

When asked by store owners what to do if a robber becomes violent, Police Chief Mike Navarre said, "Take immediate cover - get away from the bullets."

He added: "Pick up a baseball bat if that’s your only defense against bullets coming toward you."

He said the best response to an armed robber is to comply fully and quickly, and to avoid making sudden movements.

Let us hope the word gets out among Toledo's criminal element they can no longer count on store clerks to be defenseless.

13 ABC TV COVERAGE: Gunman shot in robbery at convenience store (Windows Media Streaming)

Related Story:
Toledo bureaucrats' ''solutions'' not working to prevent terrible crimes

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