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Would-be hero needs chance at new career

October 25, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Two years ago Antonio Feliciano foiled an armed robbery at the Baker Heights 7-Eleven where he worked in Berkeley County, W.Va. But instead of commending him for his bravery, the company fired him, citing a non-resistance policy its clerks are supposed to follow during robberies.

Now a federal jury has dismissed his claim that he was wrongfully terminated, a verdict he may appeal. Whatever legal action follows, the public should recognize that Feliciano's act was not motivated by the hope of personal gain, but by the desire to keep an unlawful act from taking place.

It might also have been out of a desire to protect himself. In the not-so-distant past, robbers did not routinely shoot or otherwise harm their victims, if they got the money they wanted. Not so today.

In April of this year, a man entered the 7-11 on Hagerstown's Dual Highway, displayed a knife and demanded money. The clerk complied, but was stabbed twice anyway, though not fatally.

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Who can tell whether the next armed robber will be satisfied with what's in the till, or whether he or she will decide things might go better if were no witnesses left behind to offer a description?

That's not an argument in favor of abandoning the no-resistance policy, but for understanding what may have motivated Feliciano to violate it.

We would not advise Feliciano to pursue his case. The 7-11 policy is based on work done by a sociologist who tested it in California in the mid-1970s and found that robberies decreased by 30 percent, in part because stores kept less money in the cash registers. The corporation is adamant in its belief that it works and will defend it vigorously on appeal.

Our advice to Feliciano is to leave the retail sector and pursue a career in an industry that appreciates someone who wants to see justice done. At age 29, it's not too late for such a change, and we recommend that employers give this brave individual a chance to put his determination to work in their business.

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