LAKE WACCAMAW, NC (WWAY) -- Store clerks in New Hanover County have become famous for protecting themselves from would-be robbers. Now that trend has moved out to Columbus County, where there was a a robber was shot and killed near Lake Waccamaw.
"We've been here like 20 some years and ain't nothing ever happened like that," neighbor Alton Nichols said. "I don't see why someone would do something like that. It don't make sense."
Though folks in Lake Waccamaw say their small town is usually pretty calm, many say they don't hesitate to protect themselves if someone threatens their life and don't blame the employee for what he did.
Sam Melville, who lives near the store, says the robber got what he deserved.
"Good riddance," Melville said. "I'm sorry. It's just rewards. He earned what he got."
Lake Waccamaw Police say an employee at Waccamaw Outdoor Supply gunned down a man trying to steal from the store around lunchtime. They say things like this usually don't happen in their quiet town.
"When something, a violent crime occurs, it, of course, concerns everybody in the community," Police Chief Scott Hyatt said. "We pride ourselves on having a safe environment here, but you can't plan for the unexpected like that."
Chief Hyatt says the would-be robber did have a weapon, a sledge hammer.
"This is all still very fresh," Hyatt said. "We are trying to get closure with the family, out of respect for them, before we disclose the other things. It just seems like the right thing to do."
Neighbors say they heard three gunshots, then rushed to the scene. They say one of those three gunshots hit the suspect in the head. They also say it was not the first time he tried to rob the store.
"He ran over there the first time last week and then came in this week and this is what happened," Nichols said.
Melville says what's tragic is the employee will have to live with what he did while defending his workplace.
"The tragedy is that he was forced into the position that he had to do it," Melville said. "He did not create the scenario. The other guy did. Now when he wakes up in the morning or he sleeps at night, it's going to be in his head that he's killed a human being."
Police are not confirming the identity of the shooter or the robbery suspect at this time. They say the man shot was rushed to Columbus Regional Healthcare System in Whiteville, then transported to New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington where he died Wednesday evening.
"We believe the intent was to try and steal guns," Chief Hyatt said.
Hyatt says he doesn't plan to release the name of the employee for fear the employee could be targeted for retribution.
So far there are no charges in this case.
The shooting is still under investigation.