Shannon Cothran, a Shell gas station clerk, was held up at knifepoint at about 3 a.m. Monday in Nashua, N.H. Instead of acquiescing to the thief's demands, he pulled out a pistol he had concealed. Although the money in the register was saved, Cothran was fired for his actions.
Shannon "Bear" Cothran said the man came behind the counter and threatened him. Police and surveillance cameras in the convenience store confirmed the incident and the perpetrator, described by authorities as either a white or Hispanic male, between 6 feet and 6-feet-2-inches and with a medium build.
"He had the knife cocked back. It looked like he was going to stab me," Cothran told The Nashua Telegraph. "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."
The robber got none of the cash in the till and even discarded his black and gray Coleman jacket in an effort to avoid police. However, Nouria Energy, who owns the gas station, fired Cothran several hours after he reported the incident, stating that company policy prohibits employees from having firearms in the workplace.
Both a manager and a district manager attempted to save Cothran's job, as he's worked at Shell gas stations for 10 years and has a fiancée with a grandchild on the way, but they were unsuccessful.
"Make no mistake: We care about the personal well-being of employees like Mr. Cothran, whose years of service are truly appreciated – not about the money in the cash register. So, we are especially grateful that this situation was resolved without injury," Nouria Energy said in a statement Wednesday. "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."
Company policy directs employees to hand over anything a thief demands in an effort to diffuse a robbery quickly. Cothran, though, refuses to risk his life to obey policy. The clerk has had his Ruger LCP .380 handgun and his concealed carry permit for years because the area has steadily gotten more dangerous.
"I can find another job," Cothran said. "A paycheck's a paycheck. I don't really care where it comes from. I cannot justify in my mind trying to save my job at the risk of not ever seeing my family and friends again."
Nashua police agree with Cothran's decision.
"The clerk acted appropriately. He did fear for his life … he was in close proximity to a deadline weapon," Lt. Denis Linehan told CBS Boston. He did advise that any clerk who decides to arm themselves have safety training, though.
Cothran, too, would do things the same if he had to do it again.
"I would rather find a new job than either be a hospital bed or a coffin," he told CBS Boston.