Time and time again, Americans head to the nearby convenience store to pick up a lottery ticket or a forgotten grocery item. However, the convenience of these stores also make them a target for crime, often death over less than $50.
They can be found on virtually every corner in just about every city and state serving the immediate needs of the population. Convenience stores have become a world-wide commodity since the first chain, later known as 7-Eleven, opened up in Dallas, Texas back in the late 1920s. From America to Canada and even Asia, these stop and buys provide customers with fuel, auto supplies, staple groceries, lottery tickets, quick meals, beverages, ATM machines and even specialty services such as photocopying and money wiring. The difference is that it is pretty much provided at a much higher cost due to the "convenient" aspect.
Over the course of their existence, they have also become a convenient target for criminals, both seasoned and novice.
Last week in Houston, Texas, two men were murdered in the early hours during what police believe to be a robbery of the facility. The gunned down men were Shahzad Quraishi and Mohammad Zubair, the collective fathers of seven children, one of whom had run the business for about thirty years.
One of the men was able to call 911 and provide a possible description of the shooter before he died. However, police have been unable to locate any suspects or witnesses to the crime as of today. Detectives did release that a couple had been seen arguing outside nearby around the time of the shooting and are asking anyone who may have seen anything to come forward. There was a surveillance camera on site but it was believed to have been non-functioning.
This scenario is typical, as convenience stores provide easy access due to their size, limited staffing and late night hours.
In New Jersey, a 26-year-old man currently serving a life sentence for stabbing to death his secret male lover, 41, was recently indicted on charges for a convenience store robbery nearly a year and a half ago. His reward? $60 US. Known as "King," Christian "King Joker" Almonte, a gang member of the Latin Kings street gang.
Another report of a 42-year-old female convenience store clerk in Indiana found dead lying face down in the men's bathroom with massive blunt force trauma to the back of the head shows how evil these criminals can be. The two teens who were charged in December of last year with the woman's murder were actually seen leaving the store just moments after the event by another worker arriving to assist the clerk in closing. The victim's name was Barbara Heckman.
In Tennessee, a man was identified as the robber who terrorized the local convenience store community after four aggravated robberies due to the efforts of the local media helping spread around surveillance tapes from two of the four occurrences. The 32-year-old suspect was also being questioned about a recent murder.
Last July, surveillance tape of a murder and robbery shows a man pulling up, walking in to the store located in Lake City, FL and immediately shooting the clerk in the arm once, yelling at her to give him the register contents. It was the second shot to the head that killed her. She complied with his demands and he murdered 56-year-old Linda Raulerson in cold blood.
In a trial in March of last year, the man responsible for murdering a convenience store clerk in Georgia named Djamal Atroune, 42, for a bottle of powerade, a female clerk testified in court of how she narrowly escaped death when moments after killing Atroune, Clifton James "Spanky" Thomas robbed her store. She was able to identify the robber.
Many of the stories are the same, describing the convenient access to crime and the callous nature of each criminal. In broad daylight in the tiny town of Port Lavaca, TX, a convenience store clerk notified a local school prior to calling police after a man grabbed money from her till. Area schools went into lock-down but police stated in the Advocate that "We wouldn't have called the schools" calling the robbery a misdemeanor crime that was not major.
"The "stocky, bald, black man" who was described by the clerk as being around 5' 5" tall, has yet to be found.
Although convenience store crimes litter the local area news media reports, the National Association for Convenience and Petroleum Retailing reported nearly two years ago that nearly 80 per cent of all member convenience stores were "robbery free," and that nearly three-quarters of the robberies occurred at about 6.5 percent of the convenience store population. They further reported that in over half of the robbery/murder cases, less than $50 US was stolen and in some cases, no cash was taken as in the murder of Djamal Atroune.
So with nearly 90 per cent of the American population using the services provided by convenience stores in order to facilitate a quick need fulfillment at a much greater cost, the opportunity for crime exists. As one victim's family member put it:
“Why do these thugs have to go out and kill people for no reason? It’s not right.”