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Revolver thwarts robbery

By Susan Jaconson
of the Sentinel Staff

Published in The Orlando Sentinel on October 22, 2000

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS -- A dozen years ago, Franklin Yi bought a handgun to protect himself after he was robbed and threatened over and over at his old convenience store.

He used it once in 1990, hitting an attacker in the leg after the man smacked Yi in the mouth with a beer bottle.

On Saturday, Yi used his gun a second time when two men tried to rob him at EZ-Way Food Store, which he opened four years ago.

Yi was reading a book in his native Korean when two men came in shortly after 9 a.m., their faces covered with black kerchiefs. One was wielding a hatchet.

Before Yi could react, one jumped across the counter while the other hurried around the side where Yi was sitting. One slugged Yi in the back of his head, he said.

"I thought I was going to die," said the soft-spoken Yi, 57.

The men made Yi lie in the corner near a soft-drink machine, and they kept asking, "Where's the money?" he recalled. They let him up long enough to open one of the cash registers, and one stuffed money into a large pouch. Still, that wasn't enough.

"I said, `OK, I give everything, everything you want,` " Yi said.

Yi gave the men his wallet, but they hit him again and asked for more. It proved their undoing.

Yi walked to a second register close to the door where, unbeknownst to the robbers, he kept a snub-nosed .38-caliber revolver. Yi pointed it at the closest robber.

"He still tried to attack me. I fired at him -- bang! He said, `Oh, my God.` He tried to get up. I thought he was trying to attack me again, so I fired again. He fell down," Yi said.

The suspect, Samuel Butler, 25, of Sanford, was hit twice in the shoulder and fell beneath Yi's framed good-citizenship award from the Orlando police. The bullets lodged in his kidneys, said Altamonte Springs Senior Police Officer Kristen Bates.

Butler was in critical condition late Saturday at Orlando Regional Medical Center.

The other suspect, Alarick Whitted, 29, of Altamonte Springs, ran away as Yi fired at him. Police caught him a short time later on Lavon Street and charged him with armed robbery. They said they don't plan to charge Yi, who has a concealed-weapons permit.

Yi said he had seen both men several times before in the store, which is east of Longwood Avenue about a block from Eastmonte Park.

Police recovered the hatchet in a vacant lot west of the store.

The neighborhood, though only a few blocks from a rough area known for drug dealing, is generally quiet and safe, customers said.

Throughout the day, well-wishers came in to tell Yi and his wife, Young, who arrived later, how glad they were that the couple were all right.

"I think it's quite a courageous thing he did," said Randy Rowsey, 42, a construction worker. "It's a further deterrent to crime. Laws aren't always the answer. When the citizens stand up like this, it's a big statement. All power to him."

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