It was business as usual at Shalimar’s Convenience Store on Forest Road in St. John’s Saturday morning, after a clerk was attacked with bear spray in an armed robbery the night before.
Friday night at 8:48 p.m. a man walked into the store with bear spray and demanded that the clerk — a PhD student at Memorial University named Subhendu Paul — empty the cash register. Meanwhile, the thief stole two cans of Bud Light from a nearby fridge, and ran off with the cash and beer after spraying Paul in the face with the bear spray. It happened in less than a minute.
“It was really burning my eyes and face,” recalled Paul, who was back to work Sunday morning.
“I just ran to the outside for fresh air … and I didn’t hear any car or anything, so maybe if he came here by car, maybe he parked far from the store.”
Paul said the robber could have been on foot, adding he thinks it is likely he might live in the area.
He described the assailant as a young man, probably under 30 years old, with dark eyes.
Paul pushed the panic button — which alerts the store’s security system to contact police — while emptying the cash register. Police got a call from a witnes at 8:56 and were on scene at 9 p.m.
After giving his account to police, the ambulance brought Paul to hospital to make sure his eyes were okay. He went home a couple of hours later and said he is feeling fine now.
He even said he’s not scared to be back at work.
On Saturday, another clerk, Zaib Dar, was working by herself. She spoke calmly, saying she was not worried to be working after what happened the night before.
“Work is work,” she said.
She was held up at knifepoint three years ago. The thief was Sean Frampton, since caught after committing a string of armed robberies around the same time he held up Shalimar Convenience. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison last year.
Dar’s brother, who came to work later Saturday evening at the store, was also robbed while working at a different convenience store a few years ago.
Dar’s father, Imran Dar, owns Shalimar Convenience. He is not so nonchalant.
“I am feeling insecure, unsafe…uncertain,” he said. “My two children are working here.”
Imran Dar is considering closing the business altogether, adding he would have to consult with other co-owners in his family.
“Why should I run a business where I’m losing, losing, losing, in all directions? Morally, financially,” he said, noting a tough economy has been hard on them, and the robbery only made things worse.
The family bought the store five years ago and there have already been two armed robberies.
“Maybe the big businesses … can afford this stealing and robbery, (but) we can’t afford it.”
That’s why, Dar says, after the police finished asking questions Friday night and he sent his son to attend to Paul in the hospital, he emptied his wallet into the cash register and opened up shop again. The security camera footage shows police still in the store while Dar served customers.
He said he hopes that putting the footage online for people to see might help identify the perpetrator.
RNC is investigating.