No good deed goes unpunished.
The armed robbery that occurred last weekend in Lost Nation adds a little more credence to that infamous sardonic phrase coined by American dramatist Clare Boothe Luce.
The man who was confronted by a masked robber pointing a gun at him last weekend was working at the Lost Nation convenience store for the first time as a favor to his friends, according to the wife of the owner of the business.
The perpetrator barged into Tri-Stop at 7:55 p.m. Sunday and ordered the frightened clerk to load a bag with cash from the register and a large selection of JUUL starter kits and pods located on the front counter, according to the Clinton County sheriff’s department.
Sushma Kaushal said she and her husband, who owns the store and gas station at 302 Highway 136 in Lost Nation, asked a friend if he could fill in as a clerk during a medical emergency.
“He had never worked here before,” she said. “He was just so scared. He said he was so scared he couldn’t remember how to open the register.”
Kaushal has video of the robbery on her phone. Surprisingly crisp surveillance video shows a middle-aged man wearing a turban being startled by the gunman as he burst into the store, then standing over the register, visibly shaking and too nervous to open the register at first.
Kaushal said the gunman fled with about $1,500 in cash and nearly $1,000 worth of JUUL merchandise.
“Normally we would be loading most of that money into the safe, but he didn’t know how to do that,” she said.
The uncanny timing of the robbery is one of the reasons why Kaushal suspects that the perpetrator had been “casing” the store.
Another reason is that the robber ran toward the store from across the street prior to entering, she said. Two residences, large pine trees and a large cornfield across the street potentially provide covert locations to monitor the store entrance.
“He was distracted by his phone, with his head down, not looking out there,” she said of her friend, pointing across the street. “We all get distracted by our phones, but this time it didn’t turn out well.”
The gunman was wearing a ski mask, sunglasses and latex gloves, according to authorities.
“He was wearing a monkey face,” Kaushal said, referring to the ski mask.
Nonetheless the clerk told authorities that the robber was a “young white man.” It was not clear why the clerk was confident about age and race despite the gunman’s efforts at disguise.
The gunman fled east on foot after grabbing the merchandise, authorities said.
The robbery remains under investigation, and people with information about the robbery are asked to call the sheriff’s office at (563) 242-9211 or CrimeStoppers at (563) 242-6595. The Iowa State Patrol is assisting in the investigation.
It was the first armed robbery ever at the store, according to Kaushal. However, she said she has started to wonder who she can trust. The store was burglarized of much of its inventory in April, and she said it was an inside job.
“We had an employee who gave the keys to someone else, and they cleared out the store,” she said. “The employee had worked here for three weeks.”