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Published: Monday, 3/15/2010

Clerk shoots gunman dead at South Toledo grocery

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Less than 48 hours after a co-owner of Allied Music of Ohio turned the tables on a gunman trying to rob his establishment Friday afternoon, a similar scenario played out Sunday morning at a South Toledo grocery store - only this time, with a deadly result.

Toledo police said a would-be robber who entered Bengals Food Mart, 2625 Airport Hwy., about 10:15 a.m. was dropped by gunfire from one of the store's clerks.

The clerk's identity was not released. Authorities also said they were not immediately sure of the identity of the man who apparently had intended to rob the store.

Dr. Cynthia Beisser, a deputy Lucas County coroner, said she didn't know how many times the man was shot. An autopsy scheduled for today is likely to determine that.

Police said witnesses told them a man entered the store, near Westwood Avenue, wearing a wig and brandishing a handgun.

Police said one of three witnesses inside the store said the man fired at the clerk.

The other two said they didn't see or hear gunfire being exchanged, Sgt. Tim Noble said.

Police said the clerk - apparently fearing for the safety of himself and others - pulled out a gun at some point and fatally shot the man near the store entrance.

The owner of Bengals Food Mart could not be reached for comment.

The store clerk and other people in the store were unharmed.

Sergeant Noble said the incident was captured on the store's video camera.

Aletha Allen, a frequent customer of Bengals Food Market, stopped in after learning about the shooting because she was concerned that an employee may have been shot.

"They are real nice people. They smile at me when I go in there," she said.

Ms. Allen said she recently purchased an alarm system for her home off Angola Road in Toledo because of the rash of burglaries in her neighborhood. "It is getting bad," she said.

A suspected would-be robber was shot about 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Allied Music of Ohio store, 2027 South Byrne Rd., near Heather-

downs Boulevard.

In that incident, authorities said, Steve A. James, 30, of Toledo was injured by Eric Bilger, an Allied co-owner.

Police said a man held a gun to an unidentified Allied Music store clerk's head and led the clerk to a back room before gunfire ensued.

Mr. Bilger shot the man at least twice. The man ran across Byrne Road to the Burger King parking lot, where he collapsed, police said.

James was released yesterday from the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio Hospital. James of 2270 Unity Walk is in the Lucas County jail on one count of aggravated robbery.

Mr. Bilger, who has a permit to carry a concealed gun, was not injured, nor were any of the employees or customers.

Court records show that James was convicted in March, 2001, of four counts of aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

One of the convictions was for the botched robbery of employees at a Taco Bell on South Reynolds Road in December, 2000.

In that attack, a worker who was outside cleaning snow off his car after the restaurant closed was ordered back inside by James, who brandished a gun, according to authorities.

He was about to force two other employees to open the locked safe when police arrived and caught him hiding inside the walk-in cooler.

Yesterday's incident at Bengals Food Mart was the third in recent weeks in which a potential victim surprised a would-be assailant by firing back.

On Feb. 20, Christopher Childress was shot inside the North Toledo home of Sedric Joplin after Mr. Joplin caught him and two other intruders who Mr. Joplin believed were trying to burglarize the house.

Mr. Childress of 2038 North Michigan St. collapsed at the corner of Galena Street and Michigan. He was pronounced dead at Mercy St. Vincent Medical Center.

A Lucas County grand jury cleared Mr. Joplin, 40, on March 2 of any wrongdoing, saying he acted in self-defense and was within his right to defend his property at 811 Galena.

Mr. Joplin, 40, a guard at the Toledo Correctional Institute since 2000, told police that he returned to his home at about 8:30 p.m. to find three men inside.

One of the two men with Mr. Childress, Michael Brown, Jr., was indicted on charges of burglary and involuntary manslaughter. He faces up to 18 years in prison if convicted.

The other suspect is an uncle of Mr. Childress, Jason L. Peace, 33, of 2038 Michigan St. He was arrested March 5 after an appearance in Toledo Municipal Court on charges stemming from a break-in last year. He is being held in the Lucas County jail without bond on one count each of breaking and entering, vandalism, and possessing criminal tools.

Police have said they believe Mr. Peace was in the home during the break-in.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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