An AutoZone worker who stopped an armed robbery by retrieving a weapon from his truck said he was fired by the company for violating their gun policy.
Devin McLean and his store manager were about to close the AutoZone in York County, Va. when a gunman barged into the store.
“He pulled a gun from his waist band and demanded me and my manager go back into the office,” McLean told Fox News.
At some point, McLean was left in a restroom while the gunman made the manager open the store safe. That’s when McLean, a 23-year-old Air Force veteran, bolted through a side door and ran to his truck.
He returned through the front door holding a Glock 40 – pointed directly at the masked robber.
“I told him to freeze and to drop his weapon,” McLean told Fox News.
“I watched him run down the street,” he said. “I came back inside and made sure my manager was okay and he called the police.”
The York County Sheriff’s Dept. believes the bandit is responsible for as many as 30 robberies across the region.
“One of the officers asked why I didn’t shoot the robber,” McLean said.
Sheriff J.D. Diggs told Fox News he considers McLean to be a hero.
“He did a very brave thing,” the sheriff said. “He put himself in jeopardy in an attempt to make sure his friend was safe. He did a very brave thing.”
The part-time worker’s manager was especially thankful and credited McLean with saving his life.
But two days after the robbery – and just a week before Thanksgiving – McLean was fired.
Television station WTKR reported that McLean violated corporate policy by leaving the store and returning with a weapon.
The station spoke to a representative from the company’s corporate office who said they had a “zero tolerance policy for employees having weapons inside the store.”
An AutoZone spokesman told Fox News they will not discuss the matter.
“It was a surprise to me,” McLean said. “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.”
McLean said the firing came at a difficult time. He’s about to be a first-time father.
“We’re having a little boy,” he said. “I remember when the guy came in with that gun. My initial thought was I want to make it home to my family. I want to have the opportunity to meet my son and for my son to meet his dad. And for someone to come in and shove a gun in your face?”
So why not just keep running? Why go back inside the store – and risk your own life?
“I regard them as my family,” McLean said of his co-workers. “You’re not going to leave your brother or sister behind.”
It’s a lesson he learned in the Air Force.
“Never leave a man behind,” he said. “I’m not going to leave my brother in a room with a guy with a gun – that’s threatening his life.”
In spite of losing his job, McLean said his actions would be the same if it happened again.
“I wouldn’t change anything,” he said.
The sheriff said he was disappointed to hear that McLean lost his job on account of stopping the robbery.
“That’s certainly unfortunate,” he said. “They should be doing something to reward that young man instead of firing him.”
Sheriff Diggs said AutoZone has also sent an unintended message to the community.
“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,’” he said.
Meanwhile, the backlash against AutoZone is spreading. Cam Edwards, of NRA News, called AutoZone’s decision an “injustice.”
“It may have been corporate policy to fire Devin McLean, but it’s also an injustice. He came to the aid of a fellow employee threatened by an armed robber and was canned. They should have named him employee of the year.”
He said the nation needs more people like McLean.
“He had the chance to run away but instead he chose to arm himself with his legally owned gun and save the life of his supervisor,” Edwards told Fox News. “Wouldn’t we all like to work with someone like Devin?”
“There’s a Pep Boys right around the corner,” one irate customer wrote on Facebook.