Food store owner fatally shoots gunman who demanded cash

Dallas: Man says he feels bad, but 'this could have been my life gone'

12:00 AM CST on Thursday, November 3, 2005

By JASON TRAHAN / The Dallas Morning News

Khalid Latif remembers hearing about the shooting down the street.

In July, the owner of Peavy Burger killed a bandana-clad robber who came in one night waving a shotgun.

A month earlier, a man had walked into Mr. Latif's business, Noble Food Mart at the corner of Peavy and Garland roads, in Dallas' White Rock neighborhood and stuck a gun in his face. The dot from the red laser sight bobbed on his clothes as he handed over about $400. That gunman walked out and hopped on a DART bus.

"I bought a gun after that," Mr. Latif said.

On Tuesday night, he used it, mortally wounding an armed robbery suspect.

Just before 9 p.m., the 41-year-old noticed someone backing into one of his parking spaces never a good sign at a convenience store, as it often indicates someone is planning a speedy getaway.

The driver walked in, picked up a soft drink and plunked it down on the counter.

As Mr. Latif was giving him his change, the man raised his finger to his lips and pulled out a gun. He demanded money.

Mr. Latif already had a hand on his own pistol, which he wore on his right side, under his coat. His mind rushed. "I was thinking, 'Should I pull the gun?' " he said.

The robber had a revolver, and Mr. Latif said he grabbed its rotating chamber as the man tried to shoot him. At the same time, he drew his own gun and fired.

By the next morning, Cortney Rivers, 21, was dead at Baylor University Medical Center.

Police believe that about 15 minutes before Mr. Rivers walked into Mr. Latif 's store, he robbed a Cici's Pizza about a mile away on Gus Thomasson Road.

"I'm not here to hurt you," the gunman said after he bought a spot in the buffet line and a glass of water, according to a police report. "Just give me all the money in the register."

The robber walked out with $296.

Mr. Latif's store was closed Wednesday. Black metal bars fastened with a silver lock blocked the entrance. A few feet inside, a considerable pile of gravel-like absorbent covered the large bloodstain in front of the counter. Watches and decorative knives gleam in the counter's display case.

"I feel bad," said Mr. Latif, who has a 12-year-old son. "A life is gone. On the other hand, if I think about it, this could have been my life gone."

He said he has endured a steady stream of crime since he opened the store about two years ago.

"I've had robberies, people breaking into my store, all that stuff," he said. "It's still a nice neighborhood, good people over here."

Lissett Navarro knows better than most how dangerous the area can be.

She inherited the Las Americas Cuban grocery store and deli in the same block as Mr. Latif's store after a robber shot and killed her 68-year-old father, Antonio Rodriguez, in 1996.

"We keep a gun here," she said. She added that she wouldn't hesitate to use it if a robber threatened her.

"If it was his life or mine, he'd go first," she said Wednesday, crunching on a potato chip.

The former owner of Peavy Burger, who was cleared for killing Eric Hernandez earlier this year, said he closed his store in part because he feared someone would come looking for revenge.

He said he frequently saw crime in the area, including drug deals being made on the streets.

"I didn't want any of those little gang-bangers coming in, asking for a burger, then when I turn around, they kill me," said Sam, who asked that his last name not be used because he fears for his safety.

He said he was getting ready to close about 9 p.m. July 14 when two men came in wearing bandanas over their faces.

"I thought it was a joke until I saw the shotgun," he said. "As soon as they hit the door, lead was flying."

He said he struck the man twice, then tripped over a chair behind him. "While I was falling, I shot six more times. I didn't know where they were."

The robber scrambled out of the store. Police found him collapsed near a car. He later died at a hospital.

"It was really weird," Sam said. "It wasn't anything personal."

Mr. Latif said he will reopen, though he knows someone might want revenge for his actions.

"If they want to come after me, I don't know," he said. "I have too much invested in this store. I cannot just close the door and say, 'OK, no more.' "

"I have to live with this my whole life," he said. "If I had given him the money, maybe no one would have died. Whatever choices you make, you have to live with it."