• Masked man attacks clerk, customer with ‘homemade pepper spray'

    By: Ken Lemon


    GASTONIA, N.C. - Security cameras may have captured images of a getaway truck waiting outside the Gray Franklin Express Mart in Gastonia.

    The man walked into the store early Sunday morning wearing gloves, a bandana over his face, a baseball cap and a hoodie.

    "Pure moment of terror,” clerk Vidal Mendez said. “I'm thankful to be alive."

    Mendez’s swollen eyes have healed, but the memory of the attack hasn't faded.

    "Horrifying, horrifying," he said.

    [ALSO READ: Man who pepper sprayed Confederate re-enactors is former Burke County principal]

    He said he was preparing to close the store at about 1:30 a.m.

    A customer was paying the clerk while another played a video game when the masked man walked in and looked at 22-year-old Mendez.

    "Pure terror,” the clerk said. “When he raised that hand, I thought he was going to raise some big gun."

    The man, instead, had a bottle.

    "Made like his own MacGyver-type of pepper spray bottle. It was pretty big," Mendez said.

    The customer playing the game managed to run outside. The masked man sprayed Mendez and the customer waiting to pay for items.

    "My eyes felt like they were on fire. It was so difficult to breathe in there, too," Mendez said.

    Mendez said he couldn't see much during the attack that lasted about 30 seconds.

    He could tell the attacker walked outside.

    "I immediately locked the doors from inside," Mendez said.

    He couldn't tell if the man tried to get back inside but saw the attacker get into a truck with a driver lying in wait.

    Mendez said it appeared to be a coordinated attack.

    He said a neighbor reported seeing the masked man walking by his home not long before the attack.

    No arrests have been made.

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