Clerk shoots, kills suspected Tifton robber

Published: Sep. 20, 2013 at 6:15 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 26, 2013 at 2:24 PM EDT
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TIFTON, GA (WALB) - Tifton Police are investigating the death of a 35 year-old robbery suspect who was killed in a botched robbery attempt Thursday night.

They say the clerk pulled out a gun and shot the man they believe to be Bennie Hill multiple times.

GBI agents said it happened at the Funny Fruit Thrift Store on 1424 Tift Avenue. The Thrift Store owner, who asked not to be identified, said the suspect tried to rob the clerk at gunpoint between 7:30-8pm.

"We estimate around 8:53pm, a tall, heavy-set black male had come into the store wearing a do-rag to cover part of his face, a dark blue shirt and gray pants,"  said Lt. Lee Dunston of the Tifton Police Department.

Officers say the suspect, later identified a 35 year-old Bennie J. Hill, was carrying what appeared to be a gun wrapped in a cloth.

"He confronted the store employee near the back of the store and demanded money," Dunston said.  "The employee pulled a handgun and shot multiple times at the offender.  The offender was struck multiple times."

Hill ran out the door with an undetermined amount of money and drove off, but got into a wreck five blocks away from the store near Old Ocilla Road and East 12th Street.

"I don't know who actually determined that it was possibly the suspect," Dunston said. "But multiple officers with the police department and deputies with the Sheriff's department responded to the accident scene and quickly were able to determine that it was in fact the suspect from the armed robbery."

Officers say Hill was taken to Tift Regional Hospital, where he died from his wounds shortly after arriving.

"The assumption was that it had something to do with the gunshot wounds, but we've requested an autopsy."

The shop owner says she's worried the area is becoming more dangerous. Police say they're working to keep the city safe.

"The city of Tifton is a relatively safe place per capita.  It's not any worse than anywhere else.  But my standard answer is, biblically speaking, it only takes the presence of two people for there to be crime, even as severe as murder."

The store's owner says the area has become more dangerous lately, and cited a couple other robberies that happened nearby in recent months.

Investigators say the clerk, 20-year-old Zach Perez has been cooperative, and likely won't face charges. But they say they are still investigating.

Police say Hill would have been charged with armed robbery if he survived even if he didn't have a gun because he pretended to have a weapon.

Tifton Police investigators released  this statement about the incident----

On September 19, 2013 at approximately 8:58 PM, Tifton police officers were dispatched to the "Funny Fruit Thrift Store" located at 1424 North Tift Avenue in reference to an armed robbery with "shots fired".

Responding officers were told that, at approximately 8:53 PM, a tall, heavyset black male had come into the store wearing a "baby blue do-rag" over part of his face, a dark blue shirt, and gray pants.

The man was carrying what was believed to be a handgun wrapped in cloth.  He confronted a store employee near the back of the business and demanded money.

The employee pulled a handgun and shot at the man multiple times.  He told the responding officer that he believed he had shot the man in the stomach.  He said the man ran out of the store and he heard "the spinning of tires" like a vehicle leaving hurriedly.

The employee's account was confirmed by a customer who was in the store at the time.  The officer secured the weapon and, later, turned it over to the initial responding detective.

As the first of the officers started arriving at the store, a call also came about an accident with injuries at Old Ocilla Road and East 12th Street (approximately 5 blocks from the armed robbery scene).  They were told that it was possibly the suspect from the armed robbery.

Tifton Police officers and deputies from the Tift County Sheriff's Office quickly responded there and determined that it was, in fact, the suspect from the robbery.  The driver/suspect, (later identified as) 35 year old Bennie J. Hill of Tifton, was transported to Tift Regional Medical Center with multiple gunshot wounds.  There, he died a short time later.

An autopsy has been requested and the investigation is continuing.  Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Detective Terry Allen or Detective Jared York at (229)382-3132.

The Tifton Police Department is grateful for the assistance provided by the GBI, Tift County Sheriff's Office, Tift County District Attorney's Office, Tift County EMS, Tifton-Tift County Fire Department, and Tift County Coroner's Office in this case.

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