By Adam Brazeau
CORNWALL, Ontario - As the knife-wielding man with a T-shirt over his face demanded cash out of the register, convenience store staff realized they were being robbed by one of their patrons.
A Fourteenth Street convenience store in Cornwall was under attack in the early morning hours of Thursday.
In a telephone interview with Seaway News, Beshir Seid, store manager, described the startling details.
Although Seid wasn't there when the incident happened, he saw video footage of the attempted robbery, and even knows the accused robber on a first name basis.
"We were very kind every time he walked in our door, so something like this breaks our hearts," said Seid. "Luckily, no one was injured."
According to Seid, two employees were at the cash register, one starting a shift as the other readied to go home, when a 32-year-old Cornwall man demanded cash while brandishing a knife and attempting to conceal his identity.
"The person working knew who he was immediately and asked him to leave before things escalated," he said.
Instead, the man ran to the cash register to loot its contents. One employee jumped over the counter to escape, while the other managed to walk behind the man as he smashed the register.
"He couldn't get it open, so he started to leave when all of a sudden he doubled back," said Seid. "I guess he figured he'd leave with something."
The man grabbed a handful of cigars, and after a brief struggle bolted from the scene.
During the Cornwall police's investigation, the man was located at his residence, taken into custody and charged with robbery, disguise with intent, and possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose.
Thomas Quinn was transported to police headquarters and held for a bail hearing.
"Staff spoke to him often and he would mention he suffers from mental illness," said Seid. "We're all shocked he would do this."
One store clerk went to work for his next shift, while the other took some time off to deal with the situation.
Seid has been a manager at the store for over seven years. He could only recall one similar incident which happened last March.
"A man said he had a gun and demanded cash," he said.
The robber made off with some money and no one was hurt.
He hopes this is the last incident of its kind at the store, but realizes working at a 24-hour convenience store is risky business.
"It could happen again tonight, it could happen anytime," he said.
Since the attempted robbery, many customers have visited the store to show support.
"We have a very good relationship with the people in this area," said Seid.
Cornwall police Const. Dan Cloutier assured the community that armed robberies are not a prevalent crime in the city.
Since there's a high risk of being caught on video camera or by eye-witnesses during the act, Cloutier said a number of factors can be attributed to this sort of criminal activity like poverty, desperation, mental health issues, and drugs and alcohol.