U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- A California liquor store owner whose quick action with a shotgun Sunday in Norco sent four would-be armed robbers fleeing—one to the hospital and three others into the hands of sheriffs’ deputies—is being hailed as a hero, both locally and nationally, and is another in a growing cadre of armed private citizen fighting back against crime.
The owner of Norco Market and Liquor, identified as Craig Cope, has become something of a national icon, same as last month’s hero, armed citizen Elisjsha Dicken, who fatally shot a would-be mass killer at a shopping mall in Greenwood, Indiana.
AmmoLand reached out to Cope, but did not receive a reply. The voice mailbox at the store is now unsurprisingly full, and a message on the store’s messaging system went unanswered.
Video of the incident has raced across the Internet, complete with audio of the would-be robber screaming in agony, “He shot my arm off! He shot my arm off!” All four suspects are then seen via another security camera fleeing the scene.
Messages left on the store’s website reveal a witty, if slightly macabre, sense of humor among customers and supporters.
One man wrote, “Great place to come get snacks/drinks. Just a heads up, if you come in with an AR, you won’t be leaving with a functional arm.”
Another left this message: “This place is great. If you walk in with cash or card, the cashiers will help you find a fine whiskey or cold case of beer. But if you walk in with a mask and AR15, you’re likely to get your arm blown off.”
Several more messages with a similar perspective have also been left on the website. There is no sympathy for the wounded robber.
Likewise, when the story was reported by KIRO-TV in Seattle and posted on the station’s Facebook page, it garnered hundreds of comments.
One KIRO respondent observed, “That’s one way to disarm a person.”
At this writing, more than 245 comments had been left at the KIRO Facebook page, all of them supportive of the Norco store owner and many reflecting the same sentiments toward the wounded would-be robber.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s office is investigating the incident, captured on the store’s security camera video system. The video shows one masked suspect entering the store, raising a semi-auto rifle toward store owner Craig Cope, only to take a solid hit when the 80-year-old small business owner beat him to the trigger as he attempted to flee after spotting Cope’s gun.
When they were arrested at the nearby hospital, deputies discovered that the getaway vehicle, a BMW, had been reported stolen, and “several stolen firearms” were allegedly inside.
According to Fox News, Cope told a reporter, “I did a lot of hunting when I was a little kid.” The experience evidently paid off as the one shot he fired connected on a moving target.
Cope reportedly suffered a mild heart attack following the incident, but he was back to work Tuesday, according to ABC7 News.
The sheriff’s department released a terse statement that indicated this was a self-defense shooting.
“In this case, a lawfully armed member of our community prevented a violent crime and ensured their own safety while being confronted with multiple armed suspects. This investigation is active and ongoing and no additional information will currently be released.”
The white-haired Cope told a reporter, “Everybody works hard. They got bills to pay. These guys are going to come in and take it away from you. Not here.”
According to at least two different legal websites, California allows the use of deadly force in cases where the intended victim is “reasonably fearful” of rape, robbery, murder, mayhem “or any attack that would cause great bodily injury.” That threshold was definitely met in Norco, as the security video of the shooting clearly shows the suspect raising an AR-15-type rifle and aiming it toward where Cope was standing behind what appears to be a display case on a store counter, presumably for cover.
The three identified suspects come from Inglewood, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. The suspect who was shot has not yet been identified. His comrades are being held on $500,000 bail.
It was not the only shooting of an armed robbery suspect on the West Coast this week. A thousand miles to the north, in Auburn, Washington, a 19-year-old man is dead after allegedly attempting to rob a gas station Monday night. The attendant was armed and fired one round.
According to KCPQ, the local Fox affiliate, the dead suspect was also reportedly armed. Local residents have reportedly been alarmed by increasing crime in the area. Auburn is some 20 miles south of Seattle.
While getting a concealed carry permit in California is difficult, up north in Washington, it is easier thanks to that state’s “shall issue” mandate enshrined in state law. The state Department of Licensing told AmmoLand News there are now nearly 654,000 active concealed pistol licenses in the state, down slightly from last month’s record high of 655,700.
About Dave Workman