HOUSTON --Something about one of the customers made the clerk behind the counter suspicious. The young man who walked through the door looked anxious. Then he wandered over to the cell phone counter.
"He got nervous," said the clerk, who asked to remain anonymous. "We asked him what he was doing, because he had the cell phones in his hands."
The clerk and his father, the owner of the Citgo station on the corner of South Highway 6 and Old Richmond Road in Fort Bend County , confronted the young man. He said something about looking for a phone charger.
"And that's when he bolted," the clerk said. "He bolted for the door. And that's when my dad grabbed him. And he put him on the ground. And all of us, we pushed him to the ground and I had him pretty much in a choke hold."
Surveillance video running Wednesday afternoon captured images of the scuffle showing store workers and customers wrestling the would-be thief to the ground. Among them was the store's 67-year-old owner, whose son said he's suffered two heart attacks.
"There was an old white lady, probably in her 70s," the clerk said. "She got in! She was helping us! She was like, 'Oh my God!' She was freaking out. She got on top of him."
The video shows the suspected shoplifter kicking, then apparently giving up as the clerk restrains him in a choke hold.
"When he was breathless, he gave up," the clerk said. "You could see on his hands, he just gave up. He gives up. He was on the ground, he gives up completely. I mean, we knew we had him. And he could not do a thing."
Somebody in the small crowd searched the shoplifter's pockets, the clerk recalled.
"We frisked him," the clerk said. "We pretty much took everything out of his pockets. And he ended up losing his shoes, his cell phone and his glasses."
About a minute later, an accomplice entered the store and threatened the people restraining the shoplifter, authorities said. He was released and he ran out of the door.
Maybe most humiliating of all was the fact that his accomplices left him behind, speeding away in a silver BMW. The shoeless shoplifter ran away on foot.
Now Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information on any of the three suspects wanted in connection with this botched caper. One suspect is described as a white male, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing about 175 to 185 pounds. The second suspect appeared to be a Hispanic male, about 6 feet tall, with long black hair, a mustache and a beard, wearing a bandana, a green t-shirt and blue jeans. There was no description of the third suspect.
A day after the incident, the clerk caught in the middle of it all was chuckling.
"We pretty much won, you know," the clerk said. "I think we did good."