(CNS) – The 80-year-old owner of a Norco liquor store that was stormed by would-be robbers, one of whom was blasted in the arm by the plain- spoken senior, died from unknown health complications, employees of the establishment announced Tuesday via social media.
“We lost our Craig this morning,” according to a post on Norco Market & Liquor’s Facebook page. “… Without words right now. There will be a memorial here at the store.”
The exact date of James Craig Cope’s death wasn’t specified, nor was a possible cause of death, though he had contended with cardiovascular trouble, for which he had been hospitalized in recent months, according to published reports.
Calls to the store went unanswered Tuesday afternoon.
The shotgun-wielding Cope garnered fame over the summer when he confronted bandits intending to hold up his establishment at 816 Sixth St. in the predawn hours of July 31.
According to Riverside County sheriff’s Capt. Mike Koehler, four alleged would-be robbers pulled into the parking lot of Norco Market & Liquor, exiting a BMW SUV holding rifles.
“These suspects approached the business entrance … wearing facial coverings and hoods,” Koehler said. “Immediately upon entering the business, with the rifles pointed at the ready, an employee inside the business fired a single shot from a shotgun, causing the suspects to flee.”
Cope told one newspaper that he had “a long gun pointed directly at me,” referring to 23-year-old Rasheed DaShawn Lee Belvin, allegedly shouldering an AR-15.
“It was either him or me, and I was a little bit faster,” Cope said.
Belvin allegedly fled the establishment, screaming, “He shot my arm off!”
Prosecutors alleged the foursome went to Placentia-Linda Hospital in Orange County, where Belvin sought medical treatment.
Placentia police officers were alerted because a gun was involved in the patient’s injury, and they discovered Davon Anthony Broadus, 24, of Inglewood, Justin Kyle Johnson, 22, of Inglewood, and Jamar Elijah Williams, 26, of Las Vegas in the SUV, parked outside the hospital, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
The three men, who were not injured, were taken into custody without incident after it was confirmed the BMW had been reported stolen. Belvin was arrested in the hospital.
“The vehicle was found to contain numerous stolen firearms,” Koehler said.
The defendants were ultimately turned over to Riverside County sheriff’s deputies.
Koehler said that further investigation, relying on security surveillance video from the store, confirmed Cope had opened fire in self defense. He was not injured.
The senior became a celebrated figure in the community in the ensuing weeks, resulting in a jump in foot traffic through the store and accolades from different quarters, where news of his stand circulated.
Belvin is being held without bail at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning. He’s charged with attempted robbery, conspiracy, elder abuse, firearm assault, possession of a loaded stolen firearm, possession of an assault weapon, two counts of receiving stolen property and sentence-enhancing allegations of using a gun during a felony and victimizing a person over 65 years old.
Each of his three co-defendants is being held on $500,000 bail — Broadus at the Smith Correctional Facility in Banning, Johnson at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside and Williams at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.
The trio are charged with attempted robbery, elder abuse, possession of a stolen firearm, as well as sentence-enhancing allegations of using a gun during a felony and victimizing a person over 65 years old.
All of the defendants are slated to appear together for a felony settlement conference on Feb. 23 at the Riverside Hall of Justice.
They have no documented prior felony convictions in Riverside County.
Copyright 2022, City News Service, Inc.