HAMILTON — Grayson Matthews thought it was some joke at first, a Halloween prank about a month early.
But when Curtis Jason Wright, 37, of 1206 Edison Ave., allegedly entered 12th Street Grocery Saturday night with a bag covering his face and a hidden object that Matthews thought was a shotgun, the store clerk at the business at 761 S. 12th St. realized the seriousness of the situation.
Matthews said Wright walked into the family-owned business around 8:30 p.m. Saturday, wearing a plastic bag over his face with eye holes pocked out. When the suspect demanded money, Matthews said he grabbed the $37 — a ten, two fives and 17 ones — out of the register and handed the cash over. Then the man shouted he wanted the rest of the money, and if Matthews refused, Wright allegedly threatened to shoot him.
“Don’t shoot me,” Matthews, 50, of Hamilton, said he told the alleged shooter. “You can have the money I don’t care. Just don’t shoot.”
Matthews told the suspect he kept more money in his front right pocket of his pants. He showed Wright the money, switched it from his right to his left hand, and when Wright’s eyes followed, Matthews told him he kept $200 more under the counter.
That’s when he grabbed a .38-caliber revolver, fired three shots, at least one striking Wright in the left shoulder. Wright raced out of the neighborhood store, ran to a nearby residence and dropped the plastic bag and his weapon — later identified as a piece of aluminum — on the back porch.
“I didn’t want to shoot anybody,” Matthews said Monday afternoon while standing in the grocery store. “But it was him or me.”
Matthews, who has worked in the grocery store that’s owned by his brother, Morton Combs, for six years, said it was the first time he was robbed, and the first time he fired a weapon in about 30 years.
With the assistance of a Fairfield police K-9 unit, Wright was located Saturday night three blocks away hiding in the backyard of a residence in the 1200 block of Edison Avenue. Wright had a gunshot wound to his shoulder and was treated and released from The Fort Hamilton Hospital, police said.
Wright was charged with first-degree felony aggravated robbery and resisting arrest, a misdemeanor, police said. Wright is in Butler County Jail on $25,000 bond. He was arraigned Monday in Hamilton Municipal Court and the case was continued until Oct. 3, according to records.
After the shooting, Matthews called his father, Jim Combs, 81, who lives a few blocks away. Combs said he was worried about his son’s well-being, but added if he had been in the store Saturday night, the outcome would have been much different.
“We worked our bones off in the business and we’re not about to let someone take it,” he said. “Right now, we’d been planning a funeral, not getting ready for a trial.”
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