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80-year-old California store owner who shot robber dies

Craig Cope (Provided Photo/Norco Market & Liquor via Facebook)

NORCO, Calif. (AP) — An 80-year-old Southern California liquor store owner who opened fire with a shotgun and wounded a would-be armed robber this summer has died, the store reported Tuesday.

Craig Cope died Tuesday morning, and a memorial at Norco Market & Liquor will be held at a later date, according to a Facebook post. It didn’t mention a cause of death.

Cope was alone at the counter shortly before 3 a.m. on July 31 in Norco in Riverside County when a man in a ski mask came through the door, pointing a rifle and demanding: “Hands in the air! Hands in the air!” Surveillance video shows Cope firing one blast from the shotgun.

The gunman fled. Surveillance cameras outside the store caught him screaming “He shot my arm off, he shot my arm off!” as he got into a car and was driven away.

“I didn’t have time to be afraid” after the car with four robbers pulled into the parking lot, and some got out wearing masks and gloves and holding weapons, Cope told KTTV-TV.

One robber came through the door with what Cope said appeared to be a semiautomatic rifle.

“The guy pointed the gun directly at me. It was him or me,” Cope told the station.

Four men were later arrested at a hospital where the wounded suspect was being treated. The getaway car had been stolen in Las Vegas and contained stolen weapons, authorities said.

Cope was commended by the Sheriff’s Department. Video of the shooting made him a celebrity. People flocked to the store to photograph and congratulate him and to buy items, including a T-shirt with the slogan “Don’t Mess with Norco, We’ll shoot your arm off,” KABC-TV reported.

Cope had owned the store since 1976. After the shooting, he suffered a heart attack but recovered and returned to work before having a disabling stroke in October.