It’s a world most people don’t see. But it has been thrust into the news this week with the murder of a local convenience store clerk.
Dontrell Williams was shot to death early Monday morning at a Circle K in east Columbus. The search for his masked killer continues.
With that as the backdrop, WRBL News 3’s Chuck Williams spent several hours going from store to store in Columbus Friday morning.
One clerk at a Circle K in Midtown summed it up perfectly: “We are all a little jumpy,” she said.
It hasn’t even been a week since Dontrell Williams was gunned down behind this counter at the corner of Forrest and Floyd Roads.
His replacement is on the job — and the sign on the door says it all — “Press button to enter. No masks or hoodies allowed.”
The man police say killed Williams was disguised from head to toe.
Clerks and customers, alike are paying attention.
“I know they are scared,” Circle K customer Jimmy Wilson said of the clerks. “They have to be. … You can look at them and tell they are scared to be here. And they would prefer not to be here at this time of morning.”
Circle K clerks have been told by management not to talk to reporters. But other clerks are talking about the senseless tragedy.
“People coming in and asking me about it,” said Joe West, a clerk at the Summitt on Macon Road. “Asking me if I am afraid and all. But I’m not.”
But he is aware of his surroundings.
“Yes, always,” West said. “I had a rough upbringing. So, I am used to it.”
The clerks who work these overnight shifts have no idea who’s going to walk through these doors.
“You don’t know what kinds of characters that are going to be in the stores at this time of morning,” said Fontay Hampton, who was a Circle K customer at the Airport Thruway store.
Some stores are more isolated than others. The Zelmo’s on Veteran’s Parkway at 13th Street has a lot of police officers who stop by the early morning hours.
“We stay aware,” said Karen Hand, a convenience store clerk at Zelmo’s on Veterans Parkway downtown. “We have a police presence in and out of here all night. They are constantly letting us know such and such is happening.”
Still, it’s a tough job for little pay. And that left clerks and customers, alike, thinking about Williams and how he died.
“… The poor guy, 25, 26 years old, going to school, trying to make money,” said Wilson. “Getting a job trying to stay out of trouble and somebody is going to kill him over a couple hundred dollars. It’s just terrible.”