AutoZone has a zero tolerance policy for employees that use a firearm to stop an armed robbery.
The company has fired Devin McClean, 23, after he retrieved a gun from his truck to confront a gunman that attempted to rob the York County, Va. store for the second time this month.
The masked gunman entered the store just as McClean and his store manager were preparing to close.
“I was in fear of my life as soon as he walked through the door and I see the gun. Your heart just starts pounding,” McClean told NewsChannel 3.
While the robber ordered the store manager to unlock the store’s safe, McClean used a side door to access his truck. He returned with his Glock 40 and demanded the gunman freeze and drop his weapon.
Instead, the gunman took off.
“I felt like it was my responsibility to step in,” McClean recalled.
And for that, his manager was grateful. “He said ‘Thank you, Devan. You really saved my life.’”
It turns out the gunman fit the description of the infamous “fake-beard bandit,” a thug who has knocked off over 30 businesses in the Virginia Peninsula region. His routine had always been the same: barge in, flash a gun and demand cash.
That is, until he met McClean, an Air Force Veteran.
For McClean, the decision was easy. “Never leave a man behind. I’m not going to leave my brother in a room with a guy with a gun — that’s threatening his life.”
But two days later, just before Thanksgiving, the company fired McClean.
“It was a surprise to me,” McClean told Fox News. “I did the right thing. I saved the company $2,000. I saved one of their manager’s lives — and you’re letting me go? It was a slap in the face.”
AutoZone representatives have said McClean violated corporate policy by re-entering the store with a weapon, though they have refused requests to comment specifically on his case.
“If I can save someone’s life, I put that way above store policy,” McClean said. He added, “I feel like they don’t care — they don’t care about their employees because if they did, then I wouldn’t have been fired over this.”
One of the responding officers, Sheriff J.D. Diggs, believes McClean did a “very brave thing” and opposes the company’s decision to terminate the 23-year-old.
“They should be doing something to reward that young man instead of firing him. The company has now sent a message to every would-be robber out there — ‘Hey we’re open for business and unarmed. Come on in and take our money.’”