- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 13, 2000

Antonio Feliciano says he never intended to be a hero. Then again, he really did not know how he would react when a sawed-off shotgun was shoved at him and a co-worker during a robbery. How his employer would react, though, was never in question. Officials at 7-Eleven fired Mr. Feliciano, father of two preschoolers, after he wrestled a shotgun from a would-be robber during a July 14 holdup in Martinsburg, W.Va..

According to Mr. Feliciano, he and another store clerk were stocking inventory and chatting with a delivery man about 4 a.m. July 14 when an armed robber entered the store. Wearing a hooded sweatshirt backward and with holes cut out for eyes, she "put the sawed-off to my head and said, 'Give me all the money or I'll blow your … head off.' " Mr. Feliciano obliged, figuring his life was far more valuable. When his co-worker asked the robber if she wanted quarters and pennies, too, "the robber pointed the gun at her and she cocked the trigger, and I thought, 'Oh, God, I'm never going to see my kids again.' " But as quickly as the thought flashed before him, Mr. Feliciano grabbed the shotgun and wrestled the robber to the ground. His frightened co-worker telephoned police.

The bad news came several days later. Store officials said a 1976 store policy left them no choice but to fire Mr. Feliciano. They explained themselves this way: If Mr. Feliciano had grabbed the shotgun when it was pointed at his own head, instead of his co-worker's, Mr. Feliciano might still be employed by 7-Eleven. "While the ultimate outcome was good in that the robber was arrested," 7-Eleven said in a statement, "Mr. Feliciano might have put his co-worker's life at risk, if the robber's gun had gone off."

Needless to say, there are endless other scenarios that could have played out and most would not have had such a peaceful ending. The sheriff of Berkeley County was very mindful of that, telling a reporter for The Washington Times that, under circumstances similar to those faced by Mr. Feliciano, "If you are an average citizen, acting on instinct could get you killed."

The problem is that average citizens, including 7-Eleven clerks, have little more to draw on, so to speak. Besides, it might be just a mite difficult to recall company rule #123, Section 456, regarding in-store robberies, with a shotgun pointed at your head although one can appreciate why there is such a rule.

Meanwhile, Mr. Feliciano says he has no regrets, though he does need a job. He says he took the graveyard shift to be home with daughters Nereida, 3, and Ayana, 2, while wife Carla worked during the day. "My family's definitely not rich. We live paycheck to paycheck like most people … No job is worth losing your life over. Don't try and start trouble, and don't be a hero," he told reporter Derek Simmonsen. "But don't let anyone take your life from you, either." Sage advice from someone who broke the rules for two very good reasons.

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