Store clerk speaks out after Friday robbery in Haines City

HAINES CITY, Fla. (WFLA) – A Haines City gas station clerk talked with News Channel 8 Monday – her first interview since a man robbed her Friday night.

It was a quiet Monday at the Sunoco on U.S. Highway 27 in Haines City. But Gina Patel remains cautious. Her nerves are still frazzled after Friday’s ordeal.

“I could not even sleep because that’s the first that’s happened in that many years,” Patel said.

Police said Clemente Gandy stormed into the business shortly before 10 p.m. Gandy, police said, is tied to a Haines City robbery spree. Police caught him during a chase after the robbery.

Customer talks with News Channel 8

As soon as Gandy walked into the store, customers dropped to the ground, including Curtis Beane.

“Oh man,” Beane said. “I don’t know what could have happened. You know what I’m saying? Because I was going to give him everything … But my life ain’t worth it.”

Beane had come to the store that night for a quick snack, never thinking he’d wind up in the middle of an armed robbery.

“I want my life,” he told News Channel 8. “Nothing don’t matter except for me getting home to my life and my family.”

He’s just glad, he adds, he didn’t take a bullet. Beane, who is well-known around town, said he knows Gandy and hopes it wasn’t him.

Clerk recalls ordeal

“He came in and I got like four customers inside the store and he tell them to get down and I thought he was joking,” Patel said.

Patel soon realized it wasn’t a laughing matter.

“I see the gun. He point it on me and I said, ‘Oh.’ He said, ‘Give me the money; put it in a bag.’ Then I gave him all the money. I gave him from register one and then he asking me, ‘Give me from the other register,'” she told News Channel 8.

RELATED: New surveillance video captures Friday robbery in Haines City

Patel pushed the panic button, and Gandy took off. Authorities had been on the lookout for days after several stores were hit. A Marathon station was robbed Tuesday. And Murphy’s was held up Friday morning, hours before the Sunoco incident.

In all, Investigators connected Gandy to seven robberies across Haines City and Osceola County.

“We had already tied him to several robberies in the area. He was very dangerous,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

RELATED: Haines City police ask for help to get dangerous robber off the street

Polk County deputies spotted Gandy’s vehicle Friday and chased him. The suspect crashed near the  Ronald Reagan Parkway and was taken into custody.

That brought a sigh of relief for Patel. “I feel a little better right now, but still, I cannot sleep. I’m just still thinking, you know,” she said.

So far, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has charged Gandy with fleeing and eluding. Charges are still pending from the Haines City Police department and Osceola County Sheriff’s Office.

Gandy remains in the hospital and is expected to be transported to jail later this week.

RELATED: Armed serial robber suspected in 5 Polk-Osceola thefts

On Monday one of Gandy’s aunts spoke exclusively with News Channel 8. Elaine James said she thinks her nephew is innocent.

“I just don’t want to believe it,” James said, standing just feet away from the robbery.

She acknowledged the surveillance video and accounts from clerks and customers. “Yeah, you know in reality, but it’s just hard to believe.”

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