Devin McLean was at work at the Hampton Highway AutoZone in York County on Nov. 16 when a man entered the store with a gun and demanded the manager put money in a bag.
McLean exited the back of the store, retrieved his personal weapon from his vehicle, and confronted the robber. The robber dropped the bag and fled the store.
Now McLean doesn’t have a job.
The manager of the AutoZone confirmed in a phone call that McLean was no longer employed at the store as his actions were a violation of corporate policy. The decision came down from AutoZone’s corporate branch.
An internal communication released to all AutoZone employees last Friday clarified the weapons policy: “The safety of our AutoZoners and our customers is AutoZone’s first concern. That is why AutoZone, like most national retailers, forbids employees from bringing weapons into the workplace.”
The memo referenced McLean’s actions, citing a violation of the “company’s long-standing weapons policy” as the reason for his termination. The memo said that “There is no amount of money in the cash register or merchandise in our stores that is worth more than your safety and the safety of our customers.”
The decision has attracted scrutiny from the public.
“I certainly see this as an inappropriate action to take,” said York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. “Danny” Diggs. “He should be considered a brave young man who acted heroically. Not only did he avert a robbery, but he very well could have saved his co-worker from potential injury or even death.”
Diggs said he is looking at awarding McLean the Sheriff’s Citizen Commendation award.
“We give [the award] to people who we feel have gone above and beyond and done something exceptional,” Diggs said.
A Facebook page called “Boycott Autozone in support of Devin Mclean” has attracted over 9,000 likes. He has also been featured in interviews with numerous news outlets, including national television appearances on CBS and Fox News.
The Virginia Citizens Defense League staged a small protest outside of the AutoZone yesterday. A call to their Hampton Roads Office was not returned.
Police believe the AutoZone robber whom McLean thwarted is the so-called “fake beard robber” who has robbed over 30 stores in Hampton Roads, beginning in December of 2010, according to Lt. J.W. Boswell of the Newport News Police Department. No one has been hurt in any of the robberies.
Boswell said the suspect is a stocky, muscular black male in his 30s to early 40s who wears a fake beard, hat and gloves. Newport News Police are working closely with Hampton Police and the York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Department to apprehend the suspect.
The suspect has focused on value stores and fast food restaurants, Boswell said. He has robbed a Family Dollar at 5101 Jefferson Ave. three separate times, according to information released by the Newport News Police Department.
Anyone with any information on the suspect is encouraged to call the crime line at 1-888-LOCK-U-UP (1-888-562-5887).