Fayetteville, N.C. — Gunfire erupted at four Fayetteville convenience stores in less than five days, leaving one man dead and four people wounded, but police on Monday called the string of shootings a coincidence.
"We typically see an increase in crimes shortly after Thanksgiving," Fayetteville Police Department spokesman Gavin MacRoberts said. "Any place that has cash is a target."
The spree began last Monday, when two masked men burst into the Quick Stop Tobacco Shop, at 502 Grove St. They demanded money and opened fire, wounding store employees Najib Bouzerda, 44, and Mohamed Ould, 41, as some customers hid behind video machines.
Early Friday, Montrez Javon Virgil tried to rob a Shell station convenience store at 8385 Cliffdale Road, but the clerk ran away and called police. Virgil then barricaded himself inside and held police at bay for more than four hours before being killed in an exchange of gunfire. Officer Alexander Herrera, 29, has been placed on administrative duty pending an independent review of the shooting.
Late Friday, two masked men robbed a Hess station at 5030 Yadkin Road. One of them fired a gun, and the bullet grazed clerk Marcus Stephenson, 28, on his back.
A few hours later, Devon Walton, 23, and Raven Haliburton, 22, were shot outside a Kangaroo convenience store at 1208 Bragg Blvd. when a group of people began fighting. Neither was a store employee.
No arrests have been made in the Grove Street or weekend incidents.
April Minix, who works at the Va Va Food Mart on Cumberland Road to support her two children, said she doesn't feel safe at her job, which she's had for more than two years.
“It’s a dangerous job. Anybody can walk in with a gun,” Minix said. "You keep waking up thinking, you know, 'Are you going to get robbed the next day you go back? Is it worth going back? Is it worth your life to make minimum wage?'"
She said she's been robbed before, but she goes back because the job is the only one she can find.
"I have two children to come home to," she said. "The cops even tell you, 'Your job is more dangerous than our job.'"
Minix said she believes all convenience stores should close overnight and have bullet-proof glass to protect employees.
Fayetteville police encourage stores to close overnight and to have at least two employees working at all times, MacRoberts said.
Police work with stores to help improve security, such as providing expert installation of video surveillance cameras, he said, adding that clerks should trust their instincts and call police if they see anything suspicious.
Convenience stores aren't the only Fayetteville sites where gunfire has occurred in recent days.
A Cumberland County deputy was shot while working off-duty at the Waffle House at 4520 Yadkin Road at about 3:20 a.m. Sunday. The assailant fled, and no arrests have been made.