12/22/2008 CONVENIENCE STORE SHOOTING
GULFPORT, FL – At 8:36 pm, Gulfport Police officers were dispatched to the Joy Foodsmart, located at 1005 49th Street South, in response to a silent holdup alarm followed by a 911 hangup. When they arrived, they found that the two clerks had been shot.
Thanh Hoang (43) was shot in the shoulder, and he was able to provide a statement to police. He said that he was standing in front of the counter when three black males came into the store. One of them immediately shot Hoang in the shoulder and then confronted the other clerk, Tien Tran (25), who was working the cash register. The gunman shot Tran in the chest and then emptied the cash drawer.
Hoang and Tran were taken to the trauma center at Bayfront Medical Center, and doctors reported that their injuries were serious but not life threatening.
This terrible crime was actually committed in the presence of Hoang's small children (8, 10, and 11 years old), who were at the store with their father and uncle. One of them demonstrated tremendous courage by activating the store's holdup alarm only moments after the robbers left the store. The children, who were very shaken up over the incident, went home with another family member.
The robbers are described as follows:
Three, black males, late teens to early twenties, slender build, unknown height with hooded sweatshirts and bandanas covering their faces. One of the bandanas was described as yellow, black, and green with the word "Jamaica" printed on it. The gunman used a silver-colored revolver.
There are some similarities between this incident and robberies that recently occurred in St. Petersburg. Gulfport and St. Petersburg detectives will be comparing notes and evidence, but it is too soon to speculate whether the offenses were committed by the same individuals.
Anyone with information on this case is asked to please call Gulfport Police at 727-893-1030. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Crimestoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS.
12/23/08 @ 3:15 PM
Details are now available on the specific roles of the children in this incident. The youngest (8 years old) was the first to press the silent alarm button. The middle (10 years old) pressed the button again, fearing that it did not go through the first time because it was covered with tape. The oldest (11 years old) called 911.
Detectives have identified fingerprint evidence from areas known to have been touched by the suspects in this case. This evidence will be submitted for analysis against the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) database. The prints (even ones with no value for fingerprint identification) will be submitted to a private DNA laboratory for comparison to a DNA database of violent offenders.
Several tips have been called in by concerned residents. This information is being collected on a lead-tracking system by the Detective Sergeant, and each of them will be followed up by a detective. None of these is, as of yet, the proverbial smoking gun, but every piece of information is valuable, and residents are encouraged to call with anything, no matter how trivial it may seem.