Thieves attempted to break into a Houston gun store, last month, but after this 14th attempted robbery in 5 years, the store owner took matters into his own hands. Just a few weeks prior to the January 17th attempt, thieves carefully cut out a glass window and sawed through metal bars to break into the west Houston gun store, Full Armor Firearms.
Hillin said he goes “above and beyond” government requirements by putting weapons in a vault every night, which the ATF booklet describes as the “best business practice.” Even so, thieves cost him thousands of dollars of damage when they broke windows, cut bars and wreaked havoc inside the shop. Then there’s the cost of the surveillance cameras, motion sensors and extra employee shifts.
“It’s just constant,” he said of the gun thefts, which federal officials say have increased in the area. “They’ll scout you and hit you.”
Store owner, James Hillin, asked two employees to stay overnight to help with security of the store. Shortly after midnight on January 17th, Hillin said, one of the employees saw two sedans pull into the store’s front parking lot.
The man alerted his coworker. They grabbed weapons, including an AR-15 carbine, and poked their heads out the door. They saw about five men near the employee’s vehicles.
One of the men shot at the employees, one worker told police. The employees escaped injury and returned fire as several of the suspects jumped into one of the cars and fled.
The employees detained two burglars and called 911 to report a burglary in progress. Houston police officers responded and detained the men, Lt. Larry Crowson said. One of them had a pistol.
Half an hour later, two people in a car pulled up outside West Houston Medical Center, less than 4 miles south of the gun shop. They dropped off a man with non-life-threatening gunshot wounds to the back and drove away, Crowson said.
Police interviewed and released the wounded man and one of the men detained at the scene, HPD representatives said Tuesday afternoon. Though the store employees reported a burglary in progress, spokesman John Cannon clarified, the men had not broken into the vehicles and police did not have probable cause to hold the men.
“At this time, it’s still an active investigation to determine what if any charges will be filed,” Cannon said.
However, police found that the man detained with a pistol was a felon. That man, identified as Darrien Vandrell Sams, was arrested and charged with unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon.
Harris County court records show in 2010 the 24-year-old Brookshire resident pleaded guilty to a lesser charge after prosecutors alleged he knocked a senior citizen out of his walker and stole his TV, jewelry and cash. Sams was sentenced to 13 months in state jail. In 2011, he was convicted of home burglary in Waller County and sentenced to 2 years. In 2013, he pleaded guilty to burglary of a building and was sentenced to 8 months.
Prosecutors likely will ask a grand jury to decide whether charges are merited in the case of the employee who fired at the fleeing men, Cannon said, as is standard when someone contends they used a weapon to defend life or property.
Hillin lauded his workers for catching the armed men. Inside the car left behind at the scene, police found several pairs of new tennis shoes and a cache of electronics.
“They weren’t there because they were nice guys,” Hillin said. “They were there to hurt people. And that’s why my guys are heroes. How many people did they save?”
The store owner declined to identify his employees, partly out of fear of possible retaliation.
Houston is among the areas experiencing an increase in gun-shop thefts, according to local officials with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
In 2015, the most recent year with available data, Texas led the nation in reports of firearms stolen from gun sellers, edging out Florida and Georgia with 725 guns taken in 113 separate burglaries, thefts or robberies. Those numbers represent a small increase over 2014, which itself saw a 14 percent jump over 2013.
Ryan Taylor, an ATF group supervisor, attributed the robberies to small local networks, not drug cartels or large-scale organized crime. Criminals can sell their loot easily and make a quick profit in the area’s thriving black market for weapons, at times hawking the stolen goods on social media.
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Gun Store Owner Shoots and Kills Armed Robber
Last month, a Georgia gun store owner opened fire on two armed robbers, and newly-released surveillance footage shows the entire harrowing incident.
In the harrowing video – which was captured at Dixie Gun and Pawn in Mableton, Georgia, on December 26 – 64-year-old Jimmy Groover and an employee are standing behind the counter.
Suddenly, two gun-wielding men storm into the store. Groover’s employee raises his hands, as the robbers point their weapons.
The suspects reportedly yelled, “Get down on the floor or I will kill you!”
Off-screen, Groover grabs his own weapon and the next thing you see is him shooting and killing one suspect, then shooting at the second as well.
Police said the first gunman died at the scene. The second gunman took off in a silver Dodge Magnum, and reports say police are still searching for him.
Neither Groover nor his employee or customers were injured.
“I had no other choice. I had no other choice. I hate that it happened,” Groover told 11Alive. “I’ve been doing this 30 years. Nothing like this has ever happened. I never wanted this to happen, but I want to go home at night, too.”
Police said it is unlikely Groover will be charged because he acted in self-defense.
Watch the surveillance footage below.
(WARNING: Extremely graphic content)