Customers and coworkers of an Ohio gas station clerk, shot twice while defending the store against armed robbers earlier this week, have nothing but good things to say about Lance.
“I like the guy. He’s a nice guy; he’s one of the nicest guys I ever meet, always in a good mood, always has a smile on his face," longtime customer Corey Robb told WJW-TV. "It’s just a shame what happened, but he did what he had to do."
What the open-carry clerk did is fire back at the three suspects — two of whom died after running from the Marathon gas station in Canton. A third suspect remains at large following Monday night's incident, according to an earlier report by WJW.
“Everybody that comes in here knows that all the employees here carry, you know and we don’t understand," Lance's coworker Pat told WJW. "These people couldn’t be from this neighborhood, cause it’s just something that you don’t see happening here. Everybody that comes in knows that Lance open carries."
Pat didn't give WJW his last name, and asked the station not to use Lance's last name, either.
A frequent customer who identified himself as Gary told WOIO-TV that Lance wore a gun on his hip for protection.
"I asked him if he'd ever shot it," Gary told WOIO, "and he said no, he just uses it for target shooting."
Pat and others have organized a daylong rally Friday to raise funds for Lance, who remains hospitalized, to help cover his medical expenses.
Collection efforts had already begun earlier in the week, as Pat is seen on camera holding a plastic container outside the store affixed with a note: "For our very own Lance! To help cover medical expenses."
“We want everybody to stop in and just say hey, you know, if you knew him...even if you didn’t, sign the card, help him feel better because he’s going through a lot, you know," Pat told the station.
"Two people died and it’s gonna bother him, you know," Pat added to WJW. "He needs all the support he can get."
Customers couldn't agree more.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing," customer Jesse Burns told the station of the rally set to take place at the gas station. "He’s a nice guy, good kid, you know what I’m saying, don’t mess with nobody."
“I just wish it could be more support, more giving, more helping out, so that he can get better," customer Raquel Scutsey told the station, "because all he was doing was trying to defend himself at his job."
Coworkers told the WJW that the 23-year-old has a young daughter and always helps those in need.
“If you come into the store and you don’t have enough to cover, Lance would take it out of his pocket,” Pat told the station.
That might have been a wiser approach for the robbers, who police said were wearing masks when they entered the store, attempted to rob it, and exchanged gunfire with the clerk. Surveillance video provided to WJW captures gunfire outside the store.
Ronnie Lawson, 21, and Antonio Gracia, 23, died at hospitals after police found theme unresponsive blocks away from the store, police said, adding that two guns were recovered from the suspects.
Gracia — who had a prior felony conviction of burglary — was placed on probation last month after a conviction of obstructing official business and resisting arrest, WJW reported. He was ordered to complete 50 hours of community service by October, the station added.
Lawson was placed on probation two years ago for obstructing official business, WJW said, adding that his probation ended Sept. 11.
This story has been updated.