GARDENDALE, AL – A jewelry store owner in Gardendale, Ala. (roughly 10 miles from Birmingham) shot a robber on Dec. 6, stopping the robbery attempt in its tracks.
In an interview with AL.com, store owner Jeff Dennis said that the robber – one Heather Denise Wright, 32 – blocked the door of Jeff Dennis Jewelers after she entered the store, alerting him to an incipient robbery and prompting him to draw his concealed pistol.
After blocking the door, Wright said, “Happy Holidays! I don’t want to hurt y’all, but I am,” and started hosing the inside of the store down with bear spray.
Owner Jeff Dennis feared for his safety and that of his employees. Once she started using the spray, he fired and struck Wright in the shoulder, causing her to drop her purse and scream for him to stop and flee the scene.
Dennis hit the store alarm, alerting authorities, and closed the store.
Wright was found later that day, after which she was arrested and taken into custody as well as to University of Alabama Hospital. Dennis said he found additional weapons in her purse, which was left at the scene.
Dennis reported he and his staff had difficulty breathing due to bear spray being deployed indoors, which required extensive cleanup. He also told the press that while he didn’t regret his actions in any way, he hoped Wright was able to turn her life around.
Awareness Buys Time To Respond
The biggest takeaway is that Dennis saw Wright putting a block on the door of his jewelry store, which alerted him to a robbery being about to be committed. The awareness gave him time to respond, which he used to draw his handgun.
Armed robbers using OC spray is not new. The idea is pretty simple; they use the spray to gain compliance over their victims.
When she started to commence the robbery, he didn’t know if she had worse intentions than just pepper spraying and feared for the life and safety of himself and his employees. That’s a reasonable fear to have in that situation; pepper spray is used to gain compliance, and who knows what she was planning after that?
As it turned out, she had additional tools for her trade with her, so it’s not likely that she just wanted to spray people semi-harmlessly and really didn’t want to hurt anyone.
It would be hard to say it was anything but a clean shoot.
Another point of interest is the nature of pepper spray: it’s a spray. If you have to use it indoors, it is going to get in the air – because the spray is aerosolized – and it is going to affect you, too. That’s why you need to consider pepper gel as well as spray if you’re going to carry OC.