Convenience store clerk shot in robbery

March 27, 2013
An employee of this Uni-Mart on East Maiden Street in Washington was shot in the leg by a robber early Wednesday. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

A clerk at an East Maiden Street convenience store in Washington was shot in the lower leg and another clerk was assaulted by two heavily disguised robbers who burst into the store early Wednesday.

Two robbers rushed into Uni-Mart, 336 E. Maiden St., about 4:25 a.m. and immediately jumped over the counter, said city police Lt. Daniel Stanek.

The clerk standing behind the counter, John Helfrich, 56, was grabbed by one of the robbers. Helfrich was then shot in the left leg near the knee and dragged to the register.

The other robber ordered the second clerk, 37-year-old David Holmes, to get on the floor. Holmes was kicked in the head while he was on the floor, Stanek said. Holmes also was ordered to give up his wallet.

Helfrich tried but was unable to open the register for the two robbers. One of the suspects dragged the register drawer from the counter.

Stanek said it appears on surveillance video that the armed robber pointed the gun at the clerk and might have attempted to fire a second shot from the small-caliber handgun on the way out of the store. The gunman’s arm moved as if he was waiting for the gun to recoil, the lieutenant said. It is not certain whether the gun misfired or the gunman pointed it in an attempt to scare the men, he added.

The robbers got away with an undetermined amount of cash.

Stanek said the robbers are believed to be two younger men. No other description was available because Stanek said they were “covered from head to toe.” They wore face masks, gloves and hooded sweatshirts.

“What was unusual was how they rushed the store and overtook the clerks,” Stanek said. “Usually, they don’t shoot unless they have to. They didn’t even give him time to open the drawer.”

He also said it is unusual for there to be two robbers.

Helfrich was taken to Washington Hospital for treatment and then transferred to UPMC-Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh, which did not release his condition. Holmes did not require treatment.

Assistant store manager Robert Dills said he spoke on the telephone Wednesday with Helfrich and was told the bullet actually struck both of the employee’s legs. He said Helfrich was in stable condition and expected to be kept overnight at the hospital for observation.

Dills said the store owner had yet to decide whether a reward would be offered for information leading to arrests in the case.

The convenience store has been robbed twice since 2007. Travis Rebold, who was homeless, was sentenced in Washington County Court to 4 to 9 years in prison for robbing a clerk there while wielding a knife in 2007. Maurice Andre Parker of Daisytown was sentenced to 5 years for threatening a clerk there while stealing $102 in 2009.

Anyone with information about the latest robbery is asked to call Stanek at 724-223-1386.

Staff writer Scott Beveridge contributed to this report.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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