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Clerk Recounts Robber Taking Cash, Then Pausing for Gas

Tuesday was anything but normal for the gas station clerk robbed in what became the start of a 70-mile car chase that ended in Raleigh with the suspect mortally wounded.

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MAGNOLIA, N.C. — What started as a normal day for Tammie Black behind the counter of the BP gas station and convenience store in Magnolia quickly turned anything but usual.

“I got robbed this morning,” Black said. The situation quickly became one of the scariest moments in her life.

She could not have known, either, that the man, Stephen R. Gibson, 23, of Raleigh, would die a few hours later of gunshots fired by state troopers and a Wake County sheriff’s deputy as he began to climb out of his car while holding a weapon. The car had come to a stop along Interstate 40 in Raleigh, its tires flattened by police “stop sticks” at the end of what had become a 70-mile chase from the parking lot outside the BP station.

“When I saw the gun, I knew what was happening,” Black said, though her mind did not quite accept it. “At first, I thought he was joking.”

She says the man walked into the store and demanded money.

“I said, ‘I don't have any money,’ and then he pulled the gun out of his pants, then came around here and took all the money — and filled up his gas tank,” Black said.

“He made me turn the gas on so he had a full tank of gas,” Black said. “He was standing out in the parking lot, watching me.”

As soon as the man turned his back, Black called 911. Just as Gibson was pulling away from pump No. 7, a Duplin County sheriff's deputy pulled in and the chase began. It would end in Raleigh.

In 10 years as a clerk, Black said, this was her first armed robbery.

“My boss, first question out of his mouth was, ‘Are you going to quit?’ I said no. I survived a car coming through the store. I can make it the rest of the way.”

In 2002, Black said, she barely got out of the way when a car crashed through the front of store.

Tuesday, she was grateful to be walking away from danger again, and she was philosophical.

She was, she admitted, “just a little bit nervous still. But it will be OK. Life goes on.”


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