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Store clerk fatally shoots robber

Of The Post-Dispatch

October 18, 2000

A liquor store clerk said she did not mean to kill a young man who tried to rob her late Monday night when she grabbed her pistol from a drawer and fired a shot in his direction.

But the bullet hit the alleged robber in the forehead, killing him.

"I didn't do anything wrong," the clerk, 33, said Tuesday from her home in Spanish Lake. "It was self-defense.

"I'd rather him be laying there than me."

The shooting happened about 11:15 p.m. at Ja-Mar's liquor store, 5933 West Florissant Avenue, at Riverview Boulevard. Fatally shot was Cortez A. Westley 17, of the 5900 block of Hamilton Terrace.

The clerk said Westley threatened her with an automatic pistol; police said it turned out to be unloaded.

Westley is the fifth alleged robber fatally shot in unrelated episodes in St. Louis within the past three weeks.

Since Sept. 27, police officers have killed a suspected carjacker who raped and strangled one of his victims, and a robber who tried to take an employee hostage. An off-duty St. Louis County deputy sheriff fatally shot a young man trying to rob him as he returned home in the city. And, a security guard at a convenience store fatally shot a robber after the robber killed the store manager.

"I don't understand it," veteran homicide investigator Lt. Ron Henderson said of the spate of shootings of robbers.

"Maybe they're watching too much TV."

Police said they believe the store clerk acted in self-defense.

In the shooting at Ja-Mar's, the clerk said the robber was wearing a bandanna over his face.

"He said, 'Give me the money,' and I saw a gun in my face," said the clerk, who asked that her name not be used. The clerk said she was robbed in the store of $1,400 in May and didn't want to get robbed again. Her family owns the store.

She said she reached down and grabbed her own pistol and fired a single shot. "I had no intention to kill him," she said. "I did not shoot to hit him."

The clerk, who has worked at Ja-Mar's for 13 years, said she knew Westley from the neighborhood. "It was his cousin that robbed me in May," she said.

Lt. Henderson confirmed the earlier robbery and said the cousin was arrested in that case.

The clerk said she works at the liquor store and a second job in the home health care field to support herself and her 16-year-old son.

The pistol recovered from Westley had no ammunition in it, and his family claimed a cover-up was taking place. "That gun was planted," said Sylinia Westley, 29, the youth's aunt.

"He's not a robber, and if he did decide to commit a robbery it wouldn't be with an empty gun."

Sylinia Westley and Earline Smith, 52, Cortez Westley's grandmother, said he was a cocaine dealer. "He was a good-hearted person," added Sylinia Westley.

To contact reporter Bill Bryan:\E-mail: Phone: 314-340-8950

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