WESLEY CHAPEL, Fla. (WFLA) – An armed robbery suspect was airlifted to a Florida hospital after deputies say the he was shot by a customer during a convenience store robbery attempt Thursday morning.
Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco says around 6:30 a.m., a regular customer was getting his morning cup of coffee at a Marathon Convenience Store.
The customer was at the counter with the clerk when 31-year-old Christopher Lilly 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’,” says Nocco about the customer and clerk.
Both walked out of the cooler, the customer pointing his own gun at the suspect, when Lilly pointed his gun at them both.
Lilly and the pair wrestled and Lilly wound up on the ground without his gun. Lilly reached for his gun and the customer shot him in the thigh to prevent him from grabbing it.
“This is two citizens who were in fear for their lives,” says Nocco, who adds 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.
PCSO spokesperson Kevin Doll says the customer who shot Lilly removed the bullets from the handgun that Lilly was using when he tried to rob the store. Doll says the customer who shot Lilly actually 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 says detectives are interviewing the customer and witnesses.