GNC store clerk recalls face-to-face encounter with gunman

The GNC at 5014 Airport-Pulling Road remained closed Sunday morning following a robbery there around 4 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses said a man wearing a black shirt, black shorts and a black baseball cap entered the store, displayed a gun and demanded money. He fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash, said Collier County sheriff's deputies.
The suspect was described by the Sheriff’s Office as a Caucasian in his late 20s. Witnesses said he had facial stubble.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL

The GNC at 5014 Airport-Pulling Road remained closed Sunday morning following a robbery there around 4 p.m. Saturday. Witnesses said a man wearing a black shirt, black shorts and a black baseball cap entered the store, displayed a gun and demanded money. He fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash, said Collier County sheriff's deputies. The suspect was described by the Sheriff’s Office as a Caucasian in his late 20s. Witnesses said he had facial stubble.

The suspect in Saturday’s armed robbery of a GNC store didn’t look like he took vitamins, says the man he threatened with a gun.

The 21-year-old clerk of the nutrition store, 5014 Airport-Pulling Road, who was face-to-face with the gunman Saturday afternoon, returned to work Sunday. It was the second armed robbery of a Naples store in two days.

“Surprisingly, it’s not as weird today as I though it might be,” said Shawn Hinspeter, a Golden Gate Estates resident, as he reopened the shop at about noon Sunday.

Hinspeter wished he had paused to get a better description of the man, who just didn’t look clean or healthy.

“I wasn’t going to get in the way because one, I knew there wasn’t a lot of money, and, two, I don’t make enough money. A minimum wage cashier isn’t going to try and stop this guy,” Hinspeter said.

He described the suspect as a white man, likely in his late 20s, dressed in all black with the bill of a black baseball cap pulled low over his eyes.

The gunman reeked of cigarettes, he said.

“He was kind of big-bodied. He wasn’t skinny at all, but he didn’t have a pot belly. He had a big, broad face,” he said.

“He didn’t look like he took vitamins. He had a little facial hair. It wasn’t really grown-in, but like he hadn’t shaved in a while,” said the clerk.

“He showed me the gun. He never grabbed it. He kept it in on his waist the whole time.”

While Hinspeter was dealing with the arrival of several boxes from a recent shipment, he saw the man enter and instantly knew something was fishy.

The man came quickly toward him, then, standing nearly face-to-face, the man showed him the gun on his waist. He ordered Hinspeter to get behind the cash register, open it and lay on the ground behind the counter.

“He wasn’t really forceful or anything,” Hinspeter explained. “He never touched me. I wasn’t deathly afraid. I knew he wasn’t going to the use the gun, but I was afraid he might hit me just to buy some time.”

The man got no more than $150 and was out the door in less than a minute, he said.

“The weirdest thing is that there were so many people right outside.”

However, large posters in the windows and tall shelves filled with bottles of vitamins, protein powders and other products, apparently left the situation to unfold inside without anyone being aware from outside.

Collier County sheriff’s deputies reported that the man who robbed the GNC had fled on foot shortly before 4 p.m.

Cold Stone Creamery - Pine Ridge

5999 Pine Ridge Road Ext, Naples, FL

Despite some similarities to an armed robbery at the Cold Stone Creamery in the Cross Roads plaza near the Vineyards at approximately the same time Friday, authorities could not confirm as of Sunday afternoon whether the two holdups were related.

The clerk at the ice cream shop in North Naples, 5999 Pine Ridge Road, said a man also showed a gun and demanded money before leaving on foot, sheriff’s deputies said. Authorities did not disclose the amount of money taken.

That robber was described as white or Hispanic with a mustache. He was wearing a long-sleeved, black shirt, a black ball cap, dark pants or shorts and a bandanna around his right leg.

It may be the same person is connected to both crimes, but surveillance video or other information to positively connect the two was not available Sunday, authorities said.

“We are looking into that possibility,” said Karie Partington, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office, of a connection between the two crimes.

Other store clerks, managers and business owners who work near the two holdups said Sunday that they weren’t worried.

One clerk said that lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same location.

Even so, it struck awfully close this weekend.

“It doesn’t make me nervous,” said Vinny Palmese, owner of Wildside Cafe near GNC.

“If he comes here, I’ll get my bat out of the back and hit him in the head.”

Myra Diaz was working alone at Cold Stone on Sunday afternoon. She heard of her store’s robbery on the news Friday night, she said.

Her reaction: “Oh my God. That’s my store,” Diaz recalled.

She was a little nervous returning to work alone for her first time and hadn’t thought of getting robbed until then.

Hinspeter had thought about it, he said.

“It didn’t go anything like I thought it would go. I thought it might be a joke. I honestly even thought it might be a GNC training thing,” Hinspeter recalled.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at (239) 252-9300 or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-780-8477.

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