Phone store employee locks man in store during attempted robbery in SW Houston

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Friday, January 5, 2018
Employee locks man in phone store during attempted robbery
Amazing! Hero store clerk tells the story of how she locked a robber in the cell phone store until police arrived.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The store owner's wife and a quick-thinking clerk at Latino Cell in southwest Houston locked a robber out of his own robbery, and the whole thing was caught on video.

It happened on April 17, 2017. Investigators just released the video because the suspect, John Bell, plead guilty to the crime and was sentenced to five years in prison one week before Christmas.

In the surveillance video, Bell is seen casually walking into the cell phone store on Hillcroft Avenue. A customer and worker paid no attention to Bell until he walked around the store counter and demanded someone open the register.

"No," Karina Leon said in the video, putting her hand on her hip. She remained calm.

"Open the register. Open it now," Bell said.

Basit Mian, owner is the store, says his wife's quick thinking helped save the day.

Brave phone store employee speaks out about how she locked a robbery suspect inside the store.

In the video, Bell is seen walking out of frame. That's when Mian's wife, Leon the clerk, and a customer pushing a stroller ran out of the store and locked the door.

"As soon as he went into the office I just immediately got out and got the customer out," Leon said. "I just locked him outside because whenever you lock the door outside, from the inside you can't open it so I knew he wasn't going to be able to open it."

About 30 seconds later, Bell realized he's locked in.

"I'm stuck in this building," Bell said under his breath.

A quick-thinking clerk locks the man trying to rob the store inside until police arrive.

He took a gun out and shot at the lock on the door four times. He couldn't break it. He was seen kicking the door, cursing over and over.

"I'm going to jail," he said.

Three minutes pass. Then four minutes. Five minutes.

Bell spotted some men outside.

"Please! Please! Please!" Bell said, dropping to his knees. "I'm sorry, please! Help, please!"

He begged the men to unlock the door, but they walked away.

"I feel like it was out of my character too, because I'm like a really scared and shy person, but I did what I had to do," Leon said.

About six minutes into the video, Bell put his hands up as if he knew it was over. He gave up and waited. About 90 seconds later, officers arrived, opened the door and handcuffed Bell.

"Everything that (the women) did just worked in our favor, she locked the door, he wasn't able to get out," said Officer Jeff Brieden of the Houston Police Robbery Division.

When this robbery happened, Bell was out of jail on probation for a different aggravated robbery case in which he had already been sentenced for 12 years. That robbery happened on July 31, 2015.

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John Bell's prior mugshots.

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