|With a few quick blasts of pepper spray, 60-year-old Sumant Patel of Auburn was able to fend off a would-be burglar from his Derry convenience store on Wednesday afternoon.|
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY -- For the second time in four months, 60-year-old Sumant Patel of Auburn has fended off would-be robbers from the Derry convenience store he has owned for more than eight years.
In Wednesday’s most recent incident, Patel sent a few blasts of pepper spray into the face of a 23-year-old Massachusetts man who, police said, came into JR’s Convenience Store on Route 28 Bypass and demanded cash.
“He told me, ‘Give me money. I have a gun,’” said Patel on Thursday. “He started to lift his shirt to show me the gun, but I didn’t see anything. I just sprayed the pepper spray on him and he ran out.”
Patel said he saw the man — later identified as Jay Stanton, 23, of Townsend, Mass. — drive away from the scene in an older-model Nissan with a plastic bag over the license plate.
But Stanton didn’t get far.
About 10 minutes after Patel called police about the robbery attempt, other reports came through about a single-car crash on nearby English Range Road, according to Derry police Capt. Vern Thomas.
The vehicle, which had crashed into and snapped a utility pole, matched the description given by Patel, Thomas said. Officers found Stanton inside the vehicle.
Stanton was removed from the car by Derry fire personnel and transported to Parkland Medical Center in Derry with non-life-threatening injuries, said Thomas.
According to court documents, police investigators visited Stanton in the emergency room to question him about the attempted robbery.
Court documents say Stanton told police, “I didn’t rob anyone. I asked the man for money, and he sprayed me.”
Stanton was arrested at about 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday after he was released from the hospital, Thomas said. He is charged with a class B felony of attempted burglary.
Stanton was arraigned by video in Derry District Court on Thursday morning from the Rockingham County jail, where his bail was set at $5,000 cash pending a probable cause hearing on March 9.
Patel said Thursday that he’s relieved to see Stanton in custody, especially as the two masked and armed men who held up his store in November have yet to be arrested.
In that case, Patel was able to scare off the men, who had a single gun, after pressing the panic button behind the register. They, too, left empty handed.
“I feel better this time,” said Patel. “And safer.”
After the November attempted robbery, Patel said he and his wife, Ramila, have adjusted their nightly routine.
Now the Patels are never alone in the store after 5 p.m., he said. Patel said he locks the front door at 7 p.m. each night, only opening up for customers he recognizes for the remaining hour of his day.
And Patel was given a small canister of pepper spray just after the November incident, which he keeps right by the cash register.
“After the last robbery, my friend gave me this pepper spray,” he said. “It was here and I used it yesterday for the first time. (Stanton) was in the store for just 10 seconds and there was nothing to think about. I didn’t want to give him money.”
Patel said he wasn’t scared.
“For a couple of seconds, I thought maybe I wouldn’t call the police because he didn’t take anything,” said Patel. “But I have a (surveillance) camera and this time he had no mask, and his face was clear on the tape.”
Police were able to use the surveillance tapes to match Stanton’s clothing to the crime scene, according to court documents.
Patel said the two attempted robberies are the first serious incidents at any of the four area convenience stores he and his family own. He said he thinks a depressed economy has fueled the trend.
“They thought it would be easy to get in here and leave, but I’m strong,” Patel said. “My pepper spray is here, and it’s good to be careful and safe.”