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 McClean 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,” McClean said.
At some point, McClean was left in a restroom while the gunman made the manager open the store safe. That’s when McClean, 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,” McClean told Fox News.
Instead, the robber took off – last seen running down the street from the store.
“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,” McClean said.
Sheriff J.D. Diggs told Fox News he considers McClean 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 McClean with saving his life.
But two days after the robbery – and just a week before Thanksgiving – McClean was fired.
Television station WTKR reported that McClean 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,” McClean 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.”
McClean 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,” McClean 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, McClean 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 McClean 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. Customers have launched a boycott against the company on Facebook and a petition has been started urging them to rehire McClean.
“There’s a Pep Boys right around the corner,” one irate customer wrote on Facebook.