“I heard the gunshot, and as soon as I heard the gunshot, I dropped down to the ground and put my hands over my head and started praying.”
Having grown up not too far from Virginia Beach, reading headlines about shootings isn’t out of the ordinary. The shooting at this particular 7-Eleven is believed to have been the fifth convenience store the robbers — armed and masked — had held up in just a matter of hours, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
It was around 2 a.m. when a restaurant owner from down the street, Barrie Engel, stopped by the shop on South Newtown Road to purchase a late-night snack. Not long after she walked into the store, she told the paper, two masked men “came in the store with their guns up and told us to stay where we were, nobody move.”
“I did exactly that,” she continued. “I pretty much froze and looked at my friend, and he looked at me, wondering, ‘Is this really happening? Is this real?’”
Terrified, Engel watched as one of the robbers marched toward the register, where the store’s clerk had been standing, and began rifling through the register, stuffing as much cash as he could into his pockets.
Then, in an instant, the situation changed. A man standing next to Engel — a well-intentioned bystander — fired his gun.
“I heard a gunshot, and as soon as I heard the gunshot, I dropped down to the ground and put my hands over my head and started praying, because I thought the guy shot the clerk,” the restauranteur recalled. “After that shot, it was like three shots: bam, then bam, bam. It could have been two, two or three.”
Engel remembered the Good Samaritan with a gun declaring, “Nobody’s gonna point a gun at me and get away with it.”
Regardless of what motivated him, Engel said she’s grateful the man was there — and that he had a gun with him.
“Thank God for that guy, because who knows what could have happened,” she said. “I want to thank that guy personally. I want to buy him a steak dinner.”
Police believe the pair of robbers had successfully stolen from four other 7-Eleven stores — one in Newport News, two in Norfolk, and one other location in Virginia Beach — before arriving at the store on South Newtown Road.
One of the assailants died as a result of the bystanders gunfire. Charges are currently pending against the other injured robber as well as another man police found nearby whom they believe was also involved. Authorities have not yet said if they plan to charge the gun-toting bystander.