Police: Suspects linked to 3 gas station robberies in Wake, Johnston counties

JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Johnston County Sheriff's Office is investigating a deadly shooting and armed robbery that happened at a gas station Thursday morning.

And now authorities say they believe those robbers are behind two other convenience store holdups in the area.

The fatal shooting happened around 1:30 a.m. at a Scotchman gas station near the intersection of NC Highway 210 and Interstate 40.

Three people were inside the store when two robbers walked inside. The robbers ended up opening fire, killing a man who was reportedly attempting to protect his mother.

Investigators did not immediately confirm that but said only that the victim was not an employee.

But a man who said he was the victim's stepfather told ABC11 that Joseph Bowling, 23, was the man fatally shot by the robbers.

The stepfather told ABC11 that Bowling -- who just turned 23 Wednesday, was a hero.

He said Bowling came to the store to keep an eye on his mom, who worked there and was on a late shift.

When these robbers came in and pointed a gun at her, Bowling stepped in front of her and was shot, the stepfather said.

Bowling, while bleeding, chased the robbers out of the store and then collapsed. The stepfather said Bowling's mother was holding him when he took his last breath.

The Johnston County Sheriff's Office told ABC11 that the robbers had their "faces covered." They couldn't say for sure whether they were wearing masks.

Authorities are reviewing surveillance video. The gas station will be closed until the investigation is complete.

Johnston County authorities said they believe the robbers are responsible for two other recent convenience-store holdups. Garner Police also shared that suspicion and released surveillance images.

Garner Police released these images of the suspects from the Han-Dee Hugo robbery in Benson. These two are believed to be behind a string of armed robberies.

Garner Police Department

In another Thursday incident, just before 1 a.m., an armed robbery happened at the Han-Dee Hugo at 401 Benson Road in Garner, shortly before the deadly holdup at the Scotchman in Johnston County. On Tuesday, just before 7:30 p.m., an armed robbery occurred at Reedy Creek Gas and Grocery on NC Hwy 210 in Johnston County. That store is also known as Safeway Mini Mart.

Mary Couch works at the Safeway Mini Mart and recalled the robbery of her store just two nights earlier.

"We're really on guard today," Couch said. "Like this is too close to home."

She said the clerk who was robbed at her store was working alone and complied with the robbers' demands.

"It could have gone really bad from what happened last evening," Couch said. "Our sympathies go out to everybody that was involved up there."

This is likely the getaway car used in the deadly armed robbery at the Scotchman convenience store.

Garner Police Department

Garner Police released suspect images from the robbery at the Han-Dee Hugo and also released an image of a four-door black sedan from the homicide and robbery at the Scotchman.

The Scotchman is near Interstate 40 on a popular exit for people heading to the beach.

A man who lives nearby said people are buzzing about the violent crime, which is rare in the area.

"I've stopped in that store at one o'clock, 1:30 at night before to get gas," said E.G. Peters. "So it's kind of scary."

Peters lives just a couple of miles from the store in the McGee's Crossroads community.

"They say it's a young man that was defending his mother," Peters said. "So we're greatly concerned in the community. It could be somebody we would know."

Anyone with information is urged to call either the Garner Police Department at (919) 772-8810 or the Johnston County Sheriff's Office at (919) 989-5010.
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