DORCHESTER, MASSACHUSETTS -- The three masked robbers rushed the cash register at ODB Liquors Thursday night with guns and knives drawn. Police said they demanded cash and threatened death as they fired a single bullet into one clerk's arm and cut the hand of another clerk with a knife.
But as suddenly as the men entered the store on Columbia Road in Dorchester three minutes before the 11 p.m. closing time, the situation was reversed. In a second's distraction, one of the clerks pulled out a handgun and began blasting away.
All three suspects were seriously wounded and were later arrested. Two of the clerks received less serious injuries. Of all the weapons recovered, only the clerk's gun was properly licensed, according to John Boyle, spokesman for Boston police.
It was a rare act of urban defiance and won muted praise yesterday.
"I'm glad that it worked out in this particular case," said Larry Mayes, who runs an alternative school for teenagers involved with the courts. "But in the future we may be looking at a tragedy. All the way around, we're looking at an aberration here."
The three suspects - Darill A. Burton, 23, Donny Paul Burton, 17, and Sean H. Henderson, 20, all of Dorchester - underwent surgery yesterday at Boston Medical Center. They were listed in stable condition and remained under armed guard pending arraignment Monday.
The Burtons, who are brothers, live on Hendry Street about six blocks from the liquor store. Both suffered unspecified gunshot wounds to the body, police said.
David Procopio, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Ralph C. Martin II, said the clerks - Vu Vo, 26, and Caohung "Calvin" Tran, 27 - were treated and released. Vo was shot in the upper right arm, and Tran was treated for knife wounds to his right hand and middle finger and right upper arm, police said.
The third clerk, who pulled out the gun, was identified as Kenneth Hoang, 31. He was uninjured.
Hoang told police that when the suspects entered the store, two of them came toward him as he stood behind the cash register, which is domed in plexiglass. One of the men pointed a gun at Hoang's head, he said, and the second held a knife to his neck.
The third suspect pointed a gun at Vo while demanding money, according to Hoang's account. The suspect with the knife then went to Tran and cut him as his accomplice shot Vo in the arm.
Hoang told police that after Vo was shot, the gunmen's attention shifted, allowing him time to draw his hidden gun, Boyle said.
After Hoang fired, all three suspects fled. Police quickly picked up and arrested the Burton brothers, bleeding heavily amid a small flurry of cash on the street. Police later found Henderson in the hallway of a building on Bellevue Street with a gunshot wound to his right arm, Boyle said.
No one at ODB Liquors wanted to talk yesterday.
Rodrigo Cabrera, manager of the Columbia Food Market II, which is next door to the liquor store, said he had had no problems with robberies in the past. But when asked what protection he keeps behind the counter, he replied, "Stuff.
"I need it," he said. "That's why I got it."
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