Suspected robber killed during pharmacy heist

April 17, 2012 3:21:20 AM PDT
Law enforcement across our area will tell you that the number of pharmacy robberies and burglaries is high and getting higher.

The latest attempt, they say, happened around 2:15pm Monday at the QVL Pharmacy on FM 1960 near Ella. But this time, the man who tried to steal drugs and money ended up dead.

Authorities are still working to identify the suspected armed robber. They say the suspect's car had no plates and he had a mask and gloves on. And if he had scouted this pharmacy, he certainly didn't count on one thing -- that a retired DPS commander would also be there and armed.

It was shortly after the lunch rush at the north-side Subway when there was another rush.

"It was a bunch of people, like five people, six," said Eslendy Mendoza, who works at the Subway nearby.

Mendoza was behind the counter when those folks sought refuge in her store.

They had come from the QVL Pharmacy two doors down, where a suspected robber had just been shot and killed.

"Fortunately, today there were two security personnel on the scene," said Sgt. Ben Beall with the Harris County Sheriff's Office.

Retired DPS commander Johnny Hatcher is being hailed a hero. Now the head of security for the pharmacy chain, he just happened to be inside the store conducting a regular security audit when the armed man put a gun in the back of the staff security guard, who was just outside the door, and forced him inside.

"He takes him into the business at gunpoint. They make contact with the pharmacist and he was demanding the prescription drugs that were at the business," Beall said.

That's when Hatcher drew his weapon and made himself known. Detectives say the robber pointed his gun at him so he fired three rounds. One went through the front window. Customers and employees scattered.

Hatcher's former DPS colleagues rushed to scene, and soon Mendoza was relieved to learn the man who had been killed was not the regular security guard but rather the robber.

"At first, I thought they shot him so I was scared because he's my friend," Mendoza said.

It's important to note that regular security guards don't carry weapons.

In a statement, QVL Pharmacy said:

"One of our employees became a hero today. We are very fortunate that Johnny Hatcher, a former DPS agent and also our head of compliance and security was on hand conducting a regular compliance and security audit at our Houston location today. His quick thinking and selfless act prevented a larger tragedy from occurring and we commend him for his bravery. We understand that bad guys will always find ways to do bad things which is why we go to the lengths that we do to protect our employees and patients. Since this is a pending investigation we will update everyone as we receive more information from the authorities leading the investigation and as we are permitted to do so."

No one else was injured in the shooting. Investigators suspect the robber was looking for prescription pain killers, specifically Hydrocodone.


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