WATERLOO - The owner of a Waterloo convenience store where two robbers were killed Wednesday morning said the suspects were frequent customers.
Store clerk Johnny Sanders, 65, shot Robert Maurice Bolden and Antonio McNeal Sproles, both 21, when the two walked into East Fourth Street Liquor brandishing a rifle and a handgun at about 2 a.m. closing time.
"I think for a little while nobody (will) rob me," Owner Mehnde Khan said Wednesday as police continued to collect evidence at his shop.
Khan said one of the robbers was at the store every day.
"I don't understand why last night he changed his mind and tried to rob me," said Khan, who wasn't at the shop at the time of the shooting.
Khan said he never had problems with the two in the past, although his business was robbed twice in 2009 by other people. In a December holdup, his cousin who was working as a clerk in the store was shot in the arm, even though he was cooperating with the gunmen.
"I'm sick, I work hard," said Khan, who was beaten by a teenage customer he had carded in October 2005.
That was when Khan owned Dane Street Liquor. He later moved the business around the corner to 1027 E. Fourth St. and renamed it East Fourth Street Liquor.
Khan said Sanders didn't have a choice and was protecting himself during the botched robbery Wednesday.
The weapon Sanders used, a .44-caliber revolver, was a firearm that is kept at the store for protection, Khan said.
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Sanders, a retired John Deere employee, said he had worked at the store in the past and returned to work last week.
Officers are still investigating the shooting, but they said Sanders' actions appear justified.
Police Chief Daniel Trelka said choices about self-defense and keeping weapons at businesses are individual decisions based on the situation.
"We neither encourage it or discourage this," Trelka said. "They've got to weigh all the factors."
Leon Mosley, a former Black Hawk County supervisor and neighborhood crime-fighting advocate, said the shooting shows the community is fed up with crime.
"Everybody knew this was going to happen sooner or later," Mosley said. "It will open their eyes up that people have had enough."
A man who answered the door at Bolden's home declined to comment Wednesday morning. He said Sproles and Bolden were acquaintances.
Court records show Bolden was detained in 2002 at age 13 when he allegedly brought a pellet gun to Bunger Middle School and threatened another student. In 2006, he and another person were taken into custody for misdemeanor criminal mischief for allegedly spray painting gang graffiti on West High School's trophy case. That same year he was detained after police responding to a disturbance found him carrying a knife.
Sproles was awaiting trial on a May 19 interference with official acts charge. In that case, he's accused of trying to hide in an "out of order" restroom at East Fourth Street Liquor while police were investigating a nearby vandalism, according to court records. He allegedly struggled with police, who then shocked him with a Taser, records state.