GASTONIA, N.C. -- Convenience store clerk Charles Welch never thought he had nerves of steel, but six years in the Marines must have taught him something -- Saturday night he kept cool and ducked for cover as bullets whizzed by his head at the store where he worked.
The store’s security cameras caught his quick escape from danger. Welch described what the cameras show – and don’t show.
One of his regular customers at GAStonia Express on S. York Road stopped in for a beer, said Welch, then asked him for some Cigarellos.
Welch turned briefly to get them, but then turned back to see something unexpected.
“When I turned back around,” said Welch, “the individual had a gun pointed in my direction with the hammer back.”
Welch even kept his cool while retelling the story.
“I said, 'Man what's going on?' and he said, 'Charlie you know what's up',” said Welch.
The cameras show Welch diving for cover in a back room as the man reaches for the locked cash register and fires three shots. Then the man grabbed a 16-ounce Bud Light and ran out the door.
Police arrested Jah Laquan Setzer, 23, and charged him with felony assault and robbery with a dangerous weapon. He is in the Gaston County jail under a $75,000 bond.
Welch said police caught Setzer when he walked up to a police car and started chatting with an officer – at the same time Welch was on the phone with police dispatchers.
Sunday Welch showed where the bullets blew through things around him behind the counter.
“First bullet hit right here,” he said pointing to a cigarette display. It landed in a wall behind it.
“Second bullet hit right here,” he continued as he pointed to a large, oblong hole in the side of the display case.
Then he pointed to the ice machine in the back office. “The third bullet hit that ice machine,” he said. It ricocheted off the steel case and hit a light in the ceiling.
Welch feels pretty lucky, and glad police found a suspect so quickly.
“I hate he messed his life up, I do,” he said. “I thank God I'm alive and didn't get shot, and glad the police caught him as soon as they did -- before anybody else got hurt.”
Welch himself never missed a beat. Not only did he stay on duty until 2 a.m., he came back the next day for his regular shift.