Teen clerk's heroics put felon in prison for Carver County robbery
Feb 19, 2013 (Star Tribune (Minneapolis) - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Thanks to a courageous teenager's willingness to fight back and a dropped check card, a habitual violent criminal is just beginning to serve a long prison sentence for a Carver County convenience store robbery.
Demetrius Derden, 28, of Blaine, was sentenced in federal court in St. Paul to 14 years and two months in prison for the armed robbery in December 2011 of the Mayer Oil Company station on Ash Avenue.
Court documents reveal that Derden had all he could bargain for when he confronted the clerk over a forgotten safe combination, at one point forcing the teen to his knees and putting to the high school senior's head the barrel of a weapon that turned out to be a BB gun.
"You'd better remember [the combination]," Derden demanded. "Your life depends on it."
The clerk begged for his life and then heard the gun click but not fire. It was then that the teen challenged the robber, tearing off his mask and suffering a bitten finger in the confrontation.
Derden grabbed the money and took off and left behind an empty bottle of rum -- as well as a check card with his name on it. Authorities needed just hours to arrest Derden at his home.
"The clerk ... believed he was about to be shot dead," the Carver County attorney's office said in a statement Tuesday announcing the sentencing. "The clerk then stood and began the fight of his life."
While authorities have not said how much money Derden came away with, his sentence includes making restitution of more than $9,000. The clerk's identity has also not been disclosed.
According to prosecutors:
Derden, wearing a mask, entered the store and pointed the gun at the clerk standing behind the cash register. The teen followed orders and put all the money, more than $2,000, from the register into a plastic bag.
The clerk was then ordered to a backroom and told to empty the store's two safes. The teen told Derden he didn't know the combination to the second safe. That's when Derden had the teen kneeling and pleading for mercy.
Upon hearing the gun's click, the clerk "seized this as an opportunity" to try and stand up, prosecutors wrote in one court filing. Derden pushed him back down and struck him on the head with the gun.
They began fighting, with Derden hitting the teen again with the gun and biting the clerk's finger.
The teen wrestled the gun from Derden, and pulled off his mask and jacket before being pushed to the floor. Derden grabbed the bag of money and fled.
Police, armed with Derden's check card, arrested him several hours later.
The clerk was treated at a hospital for injuries to his scalp, face, finger and elsewhere. "To this day, [the teen] has several permanent scars on his head and face," the prosecution wrote.
In arguing for nearly 16 years in prison, prosecutors called Derden "a dangerous repeat offender who had committed crime after crime for the past 10 years, regardless of whether he was on probation, supervised release or had just been released from prison."
His criminal history in Minnesota includes convictions for robbing a woman of her purse and punching her in the face, receiving a stolen firearm, and twice robbing a gas station in Blaine. In the second Blaine robbery, the scenario was almost identical, with Derden putting a gun to the clerk's head, forcing the employee to the ground and robbing the safe.
The defense countered in a court filing that five years in prison would be sufficient, noting that he pleaded guilty and has cooperated with authorities.
"Mr. Derden is sorry for his conduct," the defense filing read, "and sorry for the harm that was inflicted upon the victim in this matter."
The defense added that Derden had a difficult and violent upbringing in Chicago, was the product of a broken home and that his twin 7-year-old daughters "will not see their father while he is in prison."
Paul Walsh --612-673-4482
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