Hero store owner, 80, blames ‘clueless’ politicians for California crime surge after he had heart attack fending off robbers armed with AR-15s (but returned to work next day after shooting ALL four of them)
- Craig Cope, 80, a business owner in Southern California, defended his store with a shotgun early Sunday
- Cope said politicians aren’t doing enough to deter crimes because they have ‘no clue what’s really going on out here in the real world’
- ‘There’s people that choose to be burglars, there’s people that choose to be armed robbers,’ said Cope
- The would-be robbers approached Norco Market & Liquor in Norco, California, planning to rob the store
- Deputies identified three of the suspects as Justin Johnson, 22, Jamar Williams, 27, and Davon Broadus, 24
- Shortly after Cope fended off the suspects, he suffered a minor heart attack. The store owner’s employees, say he is recovering and ready to come back to work
An 80-year-old liquor store owner in California has called out politicians after his trigger finger helped him fend off armed robbers, claiming ‘I’m not going to let them get the shot off first.’
Craig Cope, 80, said ‘the crime rate is escalating and it’s going to continue to escalate until they start putting the people away that are doing the bad things’ after his harrowing shootout was caught in dramatic surveillance footage.
While he refrained from ‘naming names,’ he said ‘there are a whole lot of them that are creating major problems for business owners,’ and complained ‘a lot’ of criminals are ‘career criminals, (and) they need to be locked up.’
The way to prevent crimes like this from repeatedly occurring is to ‘put pressure on the politicians because they got no clue what’s really going on out here in the real world.’
Cope was behind the counter of Norco Market & Liquor shop in Norco, Calif., when he noticed a gang of men armed with guns creeping up to the door just before 3 a.m.
‘There wasn’t much time to think about’ what to do, Cope said, as a 23-year-old man entered the store with an AR-15 raised and ready to shoot, forcing Cope to immediately fire off his shotgun, hitting the man in the arm and sending the group scrambling.
Video shows a 23-year-old male aiming the rifle at the store clerk in Norco Market & Liquor on Sixth Street in Norco at 2:47 a.m. on Sunday
Craig Cope, 80, said ‘the crime rate is escalating and it’s going to continue to escalate until they start putting the people away that are doing the bad things’ after his harrowing shootout was caught in dramatic surveillance footage
‘He shot my arm off! He shot my arm off!’ the man can be heard shouting as he frantically runs back to a black BMW SUV that deputies later said was reported stolen.
The store owner described being forced into action in an interview with Fox, saying: ‘When you point that gun at me and you’re that close to me and I see what you’re carrying, I’m not waiting.’
Cope said the ordeal happened very quickly, estimating that entire encounter lasted around 10 seconds — from the moment the men parked their car to the moment he shot the suspect; he had under a second to think when the man pointed his assault rifle during the attempted robbery, he said.
‘There’s people that choose to be burglars, there’s people that choose to be armed robbers,’ he said.
Cope suffered a heart attack after the incident but says he doesn’t know what caused it and joked ‘maybe I’m just old,’ but confirmed he’s now ‘doing better.’
The suspects were located a short time later at a local hospital, where one of the suspects, a 23-year-old male, was suffering from a gunshot wound consistent with a shotgun blast, according to a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department release. He remains hospitalized in critical, but stable condition.
The three other suspects were taken into police custody and booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center for robbery and conspiracy. They are being held on $500,000 bail.
This surveillance image provided by the Riverside Sheriff’s Department shows a suspect exiting the stolen vehicle they used with a large gun
Craig Cope, 80, opened fire with a shotgun when a would-be armed robber burst into Norco Market & Liquor with an AR-15. The suspect was shot in the arm and fled the store. Cope then suffered a minor heart attack from the shock of ordeal
Cope said ‘when you point that gun at me and you’re that close to me and I see what you’re carrying, I’m not waiting,’ as he described his quick thinking when faced with an assault rifle
Deputies identified the suspects as 22-year-old Inglewood resident Justin Johnson, 27-year-old Los Angeles resident Jamar Williams and 24-year-old Las Vegas resident Davon Broadus.
The 23-year-old man who was shot is in critical but stable condition. He remains unnamed.
Cope said the group gave themselves away with certain red flags he identified as suspicious, including not parking ‘where a normal person would park… on the side of the building where they’re basically out of sight.’ He said the gloves and masks they were wearing also put him on high-alert.
Deputies responded to reports of an attempted armed robbery around 2:47 a.m. at the store in the 800 block of Sixth Street in Norco, near San Bernardino.
Surveillance video revealed the suspects approached the business armed with long guns wearing facial coverings and hoods. As soon as the first suspect walked inside, his gun aimed, the store’s owner Craig Cope, fired a single shot from a shotgun, and the suspect fled the store.
They jumped in a dark-colored BMW SUV, that had earlier been reported stolen. It was also found to contain numerous stolen firearms, deputies said.
Hitting the accelerator, the driver almost left one of the accomplices behind – having to stop so the last hooded assailant could jump into the vehicle.
Back inside the store, Cope suffered a heart attack from the shock of the incident and had to be rushed to hospital.
Some of Cope’s employees posted on social media that their boss is at home recovering and that he is eager to get back to work.
Business owner Craig suffered a heart attack, having to be rushed to hospital after the shock of the attack
Hitting the accelerator, the driver almost leaves one of the accomplices behind. The suspects are now in custody after police found them at the hospital, identifying them from the gunshot wound
Back inside the store, Cope suffered a heart attack from the shock of the incident and had to be rushed to hospital
Tamara Gibbons, who has worked at the store since October, told DailyMail.com that Cope is loved by the community and is a great boss who gives anyone and everyone a chance.
‘He’s just very kind and never turns anyone away,’ Gibbons said, adding that Cope has been known to help transients in the area. ‘He treated everyone equally.’
Gibbons said her boss was the only one working on Sunday overnight when the would-be robbers crept up. But that he saw them coming – armed with weapons – and he was ready to defend his business of 55 years.
‘He was on his toes, thank god,’ another store employee Marnie Tapia, told ABC7. ‘He just prepared himself. He’s always prepared as far as weapons go.’
Tapia credits the store’s newly installed, high definition security cameras with saving her Cope’s life. She said her boss put the security system in place because of a recent uptick in convenience store robberies.
‘The sheriff came in and warned me about eight months ago or so that this was going on and to keep an eye out and pay attention, be on your toes,’ she said.
She added that having Cope as her boss makes employees feel safer.
Cope said his shooting skills come from being a young boy in Illinois, where he owned a single-shot rifle and hunted small game. ‘Ammunition was expensive’ he said, so ‘you don’t want to miss.’
As of Tuesday evening, the three suspects taken into custody remained behind bars on $500,000 bail despite being in the state of California, where Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon has been under fire for his progressive policies that have given some criminals a get-out-of-jail-free card.
The progressive prosecutor – who was elected in 2020 – has been vocal about the need to reform the criminal justice system to focus more on intervention and rehabilitation, blasting ‘tough-on-crime’ policies as racist and a failure.
Jose Alba (right) posed for a celebratory photo with Francisco Marte, President of the Bodega and Small Business Association of New York last month after DA Alvin Bragg dropped the murder charges against him
Cope will not face any charges in Riverside County, unlike the New York City bodega worker who was charged with murder for fatally stabbing an attacker in self-defense.
‘In this case, a lawfully armed member of our community prevented a violent crime and ensured their own safety while being confronted with multiple armed suspect,’ the sheriff’s department said in a release referring to Cope’s case.
However, in New York last month, store employee Jose Alba was arrested and initially charged after he fatally stabbed a man who physically attacked him over a bag of chips. The store employee said he was acting in self-defense.
Alba, 61, who had faced a second-degree murder charge, was working at the Blue Moon deli on July 1 when he fatally stabbed Austin Simon in the neck and chest.
Surveillance footage clearly showed that Simon, 37, had moved behind the counter at the convenience store in Hamilton Heights and pushed the store clerk into a stack of shelves before grabbing him.
It was only then that Alba reached over to a shelf and pulled out a knife to fight back.
Public outrage at DA Alvin Bragg’s charges against Alba grew to such a level that he gave into pressure and dropped them.
Bodega worker Jose Alba (right) was physically attacked by a customer before pulling out a knife and fatally stabbing the man. Charges against Alba have been dropped