WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) – An armed robbery suspect was airlifted to a local hospital after deputies say the suspect was shot by a customer during a robbery attempt at a Wesley Chapel convenience store on Thursday morning.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said that around 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, a regular customer was getting his morning cup of coffee at the Marathon Convenience Store located at 26556 Wesley Chapel Blvd.
The customer was at the counter with the clerk when Christopher Lilly, 31, entered the store wearing a mask and pointed a gun at the clerk and customer and demanded money. Lilly made the pair go into a cooler.
“They made a decision, ‘We’re going to fight’,” said Nocco about the customer and clerk.
The customer had his gun pointed at Lilly as the customer and the clerk walked out of the cooler. However, Lilly pointed his gun at the pair.
Lilly and the pair wrestled and Lilly wound up on the ground, the gun was no longer in his hand. Lilly reached for his gun and the customer shot him in the thigh to prevent him from grabbing the gun.
“This is two citizens who were in fear for their lives,” said Nocco, who added that the pair made the conscious decision, “I’d rather fight for my life than be a victim.”
A PCSO deputy arrived at the store and subdued Lilly at the front door, with the help of citizens.
Lilly was flown to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.
“It was scary,” said Julie Beyer, a customer at the store. “It’s just awful, yeah, awful.”
The man who shot the would-be robber was too traumatized to go on camera, but deputies say he stepped in at exactly the right time
They say the customer was in fear for his life but many want to know if he was in the right.
“That’s a personal decision that you have to make up your own accord,” said Kevin Doll of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office. “If the victim, if the shooter, thought he was threatened or saw a crime in progress, he does have that right to defend himself.”
While the investigation is well underway, the sheriff tells News Channel 8 the customer simply stood his ground.
“If you’re in a life and death situation and you’re in fear of your life, you absolutely have your God-given right in Pasco County to defend yourself,” Sheriff Chris Nocco said.
Some customers agree with Sheriff Nocco, saying the customer did the right thing.
“I have a concealed weapons permit myself,” said customer Humerto Cobos. “I feel that they were justified in what they did.”
PCSO spokesperson Kevin Doll said that the customer who shot Lilly removed the bullets from the handgun that Lilly was using when he tried to rob the store. Doll said that the customer who shot Lilly knows him. The customer also shops at the convenience store every day and has been a customer at the store for 15 years.
WFLA News Channel 8 has learned that Lilly worked for the customer who shot him many years ago, but the customer didn’t realize that because Lilly was wearing a mask. The customer told the sheriff’s office he feels really badly for shooting someone he knows.
The customer’s identity will be released later on Thursday. Doll said that detectives are interviewing the customer and witnesses.
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