Florida store clerk fired after helping police catch robber

Vince Coglianese Contributor
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Anger replaced Keith Ireland’s fear as the Jacksonville store clerk watched a knife-wielding robber rip the cash register from the counter of his Southside Hess store in late October.

Ireland, who’d run outside after fighting off the robber, returned and threw a 2-liter bottle of Coke at the man as he headed out the door. Ireland went into the parking lot, got a partial license number of the turquoise getaway truck and called 911.

Police quickly spotted the truck and caught the suspect, a felon, after a predawn chase that ended in Riverside. The register and its $274.82 were recovered after being tossed from the truck.

Ireland said he felt he did the right thing, and a prosecutor called him a hero. Hess didn’t see it that way.

Ireland, 56, said he was suspended the day of the attack and got fired from his $7.50-an-hour job four days later. Jobless and down to his last few bucks Thursday,  Ireland said he’s still not sure why he lost his job of 2½ years.

A document Ireland received after applying for unemployment pay said that he was fired for “leaving the work area without permission.” Ireland believes he was punished for pursuing the robber and also for allowing someone in the store before dawn. He said he was unaware either action was against company policy but would have accepted counseling if Hess felt he did something wrong.

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