South Florida Store Clerks Go Vigilante

Sometimes they shoot, and sometimes they kill.

Two weeks later, though, Tice was still a free man. He came back — to cash another check. Linares's stepbrother, who was behind the counter, whipped out the Glock to keep Tice in the store while Linares called the cops. Tice, already a multiple felon with grand theft auto and cocaine possession convictions on his record, wasn't packing. He stuck around until police carted him off. Trial for the robbery is scheduled later this month.

Linares has little faith in the law. "This is our police!" he declares, pointing at his handgun. "This is our state attorney!"

Later, outside a Texaco on a barren stretch of NE 103rd Street, a hand-scrawled sign reads, "Those who come into the store with bad intentions, think twice to avoid problems." The mini-mart's walls are adorned with closed-circuit still photos of shoplifters caught red-handed. One image appears to show a manager holding a handgun to a thief's head. Asked about guns, the clerk doesn't respond. He just taps a bulge under his T-shirt, grins widely, and then goes back to organizing cartons of Newports.

Then it's on to Ahmed Alamimi's convenience store, located in what he calls the "Triangle of Death" — a nine-block Opa-locka tract bordered on every side by metal barriers designed to prevent drive-by shootings. The manager "considered" a gun but decided it invites trouble. "You don't treat the residents with respect, and they'll rob you every week," he says before adding that there hasn't been a stickup in at least two years. "Act courteously and kindly, and [your neighbors] will look out for you."

Finally, it's over to the Honduran grocery on 36th Street, where Valentin Fiallos ended a robber's life July 20. His father, Miguel, now watches the store while the young man cools off in Honduras. "He's just a boy," Dad says. "He would have never thought he'd have to take a life."

But the Fialloses certainly aren't paralyzed by regret. The day after the shooting, Miguel plunked down $647 at the Miami Police Supply gun shop. He wanted a new .38 for the store while cops hold the old weapon as evidence.

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