A thwarted gas station robbery in Nashua, New Hampshire, is causing a stir not because of what happened during the attack, but what company executives did afterward.
Shannon “Bear” Cothran, 29, was working alone at a Shell station at 3 a.m. on a Monday when a man wielding a knife came behind the counter and demanded money, according to the Nashua Telegraph,
“He had the knife cocked back,” Cothran told the Telegraph. “It looked like he was going to stab me. I took several steps back, produced my sidearm, and informed him it was a bad idea and he didn’t want to do it, and he left.”
Shannon Cothran filed a report with his employer — and then was fired.
Nouria Energy, which owns the gas station, said Cothran violated its company policy forbidding workers to carry firearms on the job.
“We specifically train our employees on how to react during a robbery attempt to prevent the situation from escalating,” Nouria Energy said in a statement released by a Boston public relations firm. “Cashiers are instructed to give the intruder what they ask for in an attempt to resolve the conflict peacefully and as soon as possible.
“We do respect the constitutional right to bear arms. However, we believe the best way to keep our employees and customers safe is to prohibit weapons in the workplace.”
According to the Telegraph, the store manager and district manager pushed to save Shannon Cothran’s job, but company executives fired him only a few hours later.
Jeff Lenard, a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, told the Telegraph that security consultants across the gas station industry recommend the same no-guns policy Nouria enforces. He said his group recommends a policy of “non-resistance” during robberies, due to the likelihood of violence escalating when store clerks resist.
“If there is a situation where a robbery is occurring, treat the robber as you would your best customer,” he said. “Give them what they want, and get them out of your store fast.”
Cothran has been inundated with media attention since the incident. Friends and well-wishers have come to his support, and gun-rights groups have been spreading his story.
For his part, Shannon Cothran said he holds no ill will toward his former employer, acknowledging he made a conscious decision to violate company policy. But he added that such “non-resistance” policies only work if the robber just wants money.
“There have been numerous incidents where cashiers have handed over the money and still been injured and killed,” he said, “and in this case, I truly believe this would have been one of them.”
The Telegraph voiced its support for Cothran in an editorial printed on Tuesday.
“We think the company is shooting itself in the foot by firing Cothran, assuming the initial accounts of the story are accurate,” the editorial said. “If the company is going to fire an employee who is protecting himself and the company assets, they might as well hang out a sign that says, ‘Robbers Welcome.’”
The editorial suggested that Nouria should have engaged in some sort of disciplinary action as opposed to terminating Cochran, who reportedly was a reliable worker. The editorial also prodded Nouria to examine why Cothran felt he needed to bring a gun to work in the first place, and if the company is doing everything it can to keep employees safe.
“The fact that one of the store’s workers felt threatened enough to take a gun to work suggests the answer is no,” the editorial said, “in which case if anybody’s going to get fired, it ought to be somebody much higher up the food chain.”
Similar incidents have happened around the country this year. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, a Tennessee man defended his store from would-be robbers with his gun, and then learned he could lose his mall lease. Three men entered the cookie store and stole $45 from the cash register. The store owner then chased the three men into the mall parking lot and fired three warning shots from his 9mm handgun. The mall has a strict “no guns” policy.