HOUSTON - Yet another robbery at a Radio Shack ended in gunfire Saturday night after a dangerous confrontation between an off-duty police officer and a masked gunman.

The officer, a four-year veteran patrolman identified as S. Gromyko, reportedly was sitting in a back room monitoring security cameras at the Radio Shack on Gessner just north of the Katy Freeway when he saw three men suspicious-looking men wearing hoodies entering the store. So he stepped toward the door of the back room to walk out and investigate.

As soon as he got to that door, he was confronted face-to-face, a matter of inches apart, with a masked male in a hoodie who was pointing a pistol directly at the officer, said Kese Smith, a Houston police spokesman.

The officer fired his pistol, but missed the gunman. All three suspects scattered, two of them running out a back door and one bolting out of the store s entrance, Smith said.

The officer working as a security guard had good reason to be suspicious when he saw those men wearing hoodies. Radio Shack stores in the Houston area have been struck with wave of armed robberies dating back to last year, many of them committed by men wearing similar dark hoodies and masks.

That s insane to me, said Jo Beth Myes, a shopper outside a Radio Shack store in Pearland that was robbed just after Christmas. I mean, who does that? That s crazy!

Investigators believe at least some of the robberies are connected. Surveillance video shot at a Radio Shack in Stafford last week shows a gunman holding a woman behind a cash register at gunpoint as he snatched cash. His clothing looks similar to the outfit worn by the robbers caught on camera last week as they walked into a Radio Shack in Galveston.

The robbers apparently are attracted not only by money, but also by merchandise. The Galveston heist netted the thieves not only about $3500 cash, but also about $15,000 worth of electronics.

The wave of crimes prompted Radio Shack officials to meet with Houston police crime prevention specialists and discuss ways to make the stores less vulnerable to armed robbers. Some stores even have off-duty police officers working as security guards like the Radio Shack on Gessner where gunfire erupted on Saturday night.

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