When an armed robber confronted an 80-year-old liquor store owner who was well prepared for such a situation, it was like a scene from a wild west shootout. “It was either him or me and I was a little bit faster,” the owner said — and it was all caught on video.
Liquor stores can be magnets for thieves who usually come packing firearms. That’s precisely what happened to Charles Cope, who owns the Norco Market & Liquor located in Norco, California. According to the New York Post, the elderly California liquor store owner flipped the script on armed gunmen during an attempted robbery and said that he had no choice but to open fire on one of the assailants, insisting it was “either him or me.”
Cope, who first purchased the store in 1976, said he feared for his life as four would-be thieves drove into his parking lot in the early morning hours. At that point, he was behind the counter when one of the assailants busted in with a rifle and yelled at him to freeze. “I got a long gun pointing directly at me,” Cope said. “It was either him or me and I was a little bit faster.”
Charles Cope suspected something was off when he saw a dark BMW SUV pull up alongside the store instead of into one of the nearby open parking spaces. They also “backed in” as they approached, which was another “red flag” for the fast-thinking owner. “I saw them getting out of the car in masks and with guns,” Cope recalled. “So, I figured what was going to happen. I just knew they were armed and masked and that they were coming in, so I was ready for them.”
At one point, three of the suspects hopped out of the SUV, while a fourth man stayed behind to act as a getaway driver, Cope said. According to ABC News, “Dramatic surveillance video captured the moment a Norco liquor store owner used his shotgun to shoot a would-be robber who was armed with a rifle. Footage shows the armed suspect burst into the business and the owner immediately shoot a single blast from his firearm.”
Surveillance footage from inside the store shows Cope firing the shotgun just seconds after the gunman announced the robbery, wounding the would-be robber in the arm. “He was screaming that I shot his arm off,” Cope recalled. “That’s what he said.” Indeed, the cameras outside captured the suspect frantically screaming, “He shot my arm off! He shot my arm off!” Multiple suspects then quickly take off in a dark-colored SUV, almost leaving a person behind.
“Four suspects armed with long guns were involved in the attempted robbery and were wearing facial coverings, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department,” ABC News reported. Authorities tracked down the four suspects at a Southern California hospital, where one had a gunshot wound consistent with a shotgun blast, according to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.
It was also reported that Cope, who suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital after the shooting, was sent to his Riverside home to recover. He said he intends to keep working at the store but may cut back on his hours. That has nothing to do with the attempted heist, which he characterized as a “terribly isolated” incident.
Cope’s 79-year-old wife, Nancy, said her husband was expected to fully recover. “He’s asleep right now,” she said during a brief telephone interview, adding that he was discharged from a hospital a day later. “He’s going to be fine,” Nancy Cope said. “He just has to rest for a while.”
Riverside Sheriff Department officials reported that three suspects were being held on $500,000 bond and were identified as Justin Johnson, 22, of Inglewood, California, Jamar Williams, 27, of Los Angeles, and Davon Broadus, 24, of Las Vegas. Sheriff’s officials also praised Cope for preventing a “violent crime” while ensuring his own safety as he was confronted by multiple armed suspects.
Cope — who grew up in Illinois, where he hunted for food as a child — said he doesn’t regret his actions. “It’s not going to be on my mind or keep me from doing anything,” he said. “It’s not going to change how I operate. I’m already alert and pay attention to my surroundings at all times.” It may, however, change the mind of potential criminals, who might have also mistakenly thought the elderly owner would make for an easy target.