A “natural instinct” to run after two robbers turned into a life-changing moment that has cost a former gas station clerk his health, his job and his peace of mind.
A steep price to try to recover $37 and a case of beer.
“I hate thieves,” Michael Korn said as he sat on a couch in his dark, Akron apartment, recalling the night three years ago when his life changed dramatically.
He stood and lifted his shirt, showing scars from two operations on his abdomen. A third is scheduled for next week to repair his stomach wall, distended from a hernia as a result of the shooting.
Since the robbery, Korn has not been able to work as a carpenter and has been homeless for long periods. He desperately wants to work again.
“I am suffering,” he said. “I need help.”
Korn, now 44, was a clerk at the BP station on Kent Road in Stow when he and a co-worker were robbed at gunpoint on May 1, 2009. The two robbers ran out of the store. One of them, carrying a gun and $37 from the register, got in their car. The other man, carrying a beer, ran toward the vehicle.
Korn followed them outside, seeking to get the license plate of the getaway car. He caught the man with the beer, tackling him in the parking lot.
It was then that the gunman, Taylor Black, pointed his 9 mm Smith and Wesson semiautomatic handgun at Korn from inside the car. Black said Korn would remember Black’s face the rest of his life, then pulled the trigger.
Korn made it back inside the store before he passed out.
Stow police and a K-9 unit arrested the robbers after a chase by Stow and Tallmadge police ended when the getaway car crashed into a tree on Tallmadge Circle.
Black, 25, of Akron, is serving 16 years at Trumbull Correctional Institution for attempted murder and aggravated robbery. Joseph London, 25, of Copley Township, is serving 14 years at the Lorain Correctional Institution for aggravated robbery and felonious assault in the Stow case and an unrelated Akron robbery.
Korn said his instinct to try to catch the robbers proved costly. Not only was he shot, but he also lost the part-time clerk job he had held for only a few months for violating BP’s employee safety policy.
He said his understanding of the night rules was that an employee is not permitted to go outside the building without a second employee on duty.
In an out-of-court settlement, Korn said, he received cash from BP, and the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation paid his outstanding medical bills. He is prohibited from disclosing exact dollar amounts.
A BP spokesman said the company was not at liberty to discuss the settlement because of a confidentiality clause and would not comment about employee safety policies at its stores.
A spokeswoman for the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation said Korn’s medical bills were paid but the agreement does not allow Korn to seek any additional medical benefits.
Korn has retained a local law firm to try to get approval for Social Security disability benefits. He also is working with the Victim Assistance Program to fill out papers for the Ohio Victims of Crime Compensation Program through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The Rev. Robert Denton, executive director of the Victim Assistance Program in Summit County, said his agency will try to help Korn receive funds that might cover costs of his pending surgery.
He said his impression of Korn’s actions is that he was someone who “has a sense of loyalty to do the right thing.”
“We’re always hearing someone ask, ‘Did you get the license [plate number]?’ Then we think to ourselves, ‘Why the heck didn’t you get it?’ He is trying to do the right thing,” Denton said.
“Normally, we would call him a good citizen.”
But, Denton said, businesses increasingly are acting to minimize their risks — moves that often translate into defending themselves from liabilities.
“In workplace incidents, we want people to be rational and do the reasonable thing that would occur to most people a day or so later when the armchair quarterbacks can second-guess with no investment,” Denton said. “That doesn’t often happen when a robbery or violent crime goes down.
“Unless trained, most will go into flight or fight rather than accommodation.”
Denton said society is still “a long way from a level playing field for victims.” “Does anybody remember much about the felon in this situation?” he asked. “But here is a guy — long after the violent moment — who lives day in and day out, his life painfully, in many ways, changed by a crime he did not commit. Just a policy breach.”
Korn enrolled at the University of Akron last fall, but he has not been able to attend because of constant pain, he said.
Periodically, he has stayed at the Haven of Rest shelter over the past two years. Last fall, he was arrested while sleeping in a vacant house in Stow and pleaded guilty to public intoxication and criminal trespass.
Akron attorney Annette Powers, who at one time represented Korn, called him a “good guy who was trying to do the right thing when he was shot.
“He tried to be a Good Samaritan at work,” she said. “He got fired over it. He was injured and everything went very badly health-wise and economically for him.”
Powers said Korn has her sympathy.
“You do a good deed and the consequences are not what one would expect.”
Korn, a father of two, said the effects of the shooting have left his stomach and back muscles weak. He is unable to walk even short distances without pain. He said he also has been undergoing counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I can’t sleep. I worry about getting shot again,” he said.
More than anything, Korn wants to regain his health to resume work as a carpenter.
“I have an emotional drive to work,” he said.
He blames the shooting for how his life has spiraled downward.
“I didn’t want my partner [the other clerk at the store] to be shot,” he said.
“Do I think I did the wrong thing? I don’t think so.”
He said he wishes he hadn’t been shot but believes the robbers would not have been caught had he not slowed them down in the parking lot.
“Morally, I didn’t do the wrong thing,” he said.
“When they have a gun at my partner and me back and forth, you don’t know how much your adrenaline goes.”
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.