A mother of three has been fired from her job as a Circle K clerk in New Mexico for shooting an armed robber in an act of self-defense.
According to Albuquerque Police Department Public Information Officer Tanner Tixier, 23-year-old Mexican immigrant Ferron Mendez is accused of holding up a Circle K convenience store at gunpoint.
Store clerk Jennifer Wertz opened fire on the suspect, shooting him in the lower chest after he pointed a handgun at her and demanded cash.
“He was screaming. He points the gun in my face and I just point, cock, shoot and protect myself,” Miss Wertz told reporters.
Local police said Mendez managed to get up and run out of the store, before eventually collapsing in a parking lot next to the building. He was taken to the University of New Mexico Hospital in critical condition.
After spending a week recovering in hospital, he was moved to Bernalillo County Jail Monday. Mendez now faces charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, attempt to commit armed robber, conspiracy and more.
Police say Miss Wertz will not face any charges for the shooting. However, the nationwide franchise Circle K does not allow employees to carry firearms. Wertz was initially suspended by the company following the incident, but has now been fired.
“I’d rather be alive and have to find another job,” she told KRQE News 13, “So I was thinking about it and I realized it was either shoot or be shot, so I decided to protect myself.”
Moments before the attempted robbery, another customer told Miss Wertz that the nearby 7-Eleven on Wyoming & Candelaria had been held up. “I got very nervous,” she said, so she went to fetch her licensed 9mm Ruger handgun from her car.
Her coworkers locked one of the doors, but a few moments later two masked men stormed into the convenience store. When Mendez pointed a gun at Wertz she pulled out her Ruger and shot him. All of which transpired in a very short period of time.
Police confirmed that the 7-Eleven was indeed robbed shortly before the Circle K at around 4 p.m., but have not yet established whether the two crimes are connected. Miss Wertz says that she believes they are connected. Detectives are currently examining surveillance videos from the local area.
“I would do it again. I will protect myself, I will protect my family. I have no regrets,” said Miss Wertz. “All I wanted to do was make sure I got home to my kids. I have three children, I’m all they have.”
“It was literally within seconds,” she said. “He pointed the gun. He actually fully engaged the gun, raised it and pointed it at my face.”
The now former Circle K clerk said she carries a firearm because she is afraid to walk alone at night, following several recent “violent encounters” that have taken place in the local area.
“Robberies have been going on like this for the past few weeks. They have done nothing to protect me. And I felt the need to protect myself,” she told FOX6.
According to official court documents, Mendez was actually armed with a black airsoft toy gun, but it could not be differentiated it from a genuine firearm. Despite Mendez’s use of a realistic looking airsoft gun, Wertz was well within her right to defend herself using an actual handgun, for which she had a concealed carry permit.
The compassionate response from the Albuquerque community has been overwhelming since Jennifer Wertz’s dismissal from Circle K, where she worked for more than five years. A GoFundMe account has been set up to support for her and her family, already raising more than $68,000 for the young mother of three.