It was pouring rain just after 1 p.m. Monday, July 20, when a man burst into a Honduran grocery store on NW 36th Street in Miami. A shirt was wrapped around his face as he gripped a black semiautomatic handgun. Twenty-year-old Charles Bell shoved the pistol into the face of a manager behind the counter. Then he demanded the contents of the cash register and cartons of cigarettes in a plastic bag.
Next he began herding customers to the back of the small market.
But when he returned to the counter to collect his loot, a short, well-built 24-year-old manager named Valentin Fiallos pointed a .38 and squeezed the trigger. As Bell scampered from the store, he turned and shot back several times. Fiallos, shielding himself, squeezed off several more rounds.
The would-be robber missed every time, but the manager’s aim was true. Bell burst out of the store and ran several steps before flopping onto the wet asphalt. A bullet to the chest killed him.
Cops termed it “justifiable homicide.” The ruling is backed up by former Gov. Jeb Bush‘s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law, which offers wide-ranging legal protection to violent-crime victims who open fire on their aggressors before trying to make peace.
All over South Florida, besieged employees are shooting back. A few blood-soaked examples:
• On August 12, 2007, a 54-year-old Pembroke Pines Super Stop clerk pulled a handgun on a shotgun-wielding pair of robbers, killing one.
• A month later, a clerk at OG’s Corner Urban Wear in Oakland Park shot and whacked a 17-year-old robber.
• Two months after that, the manager of a Naranja grocery store killed a 14-year-old ski-masked robber strapped with what turned out to be a BB gun.
• In August last year, a Miami Gardens videogame store manager was murdered in a shootout after he nailed one of three armed robbers. Read more