JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – An armed man wearing a Darth Vader costume robbed a convenience store in Jacksonville Beach on Sunday night, according to the Jacksonville Beach Police Department.
The man, seen in surveillance video, held up the 8 Til Late on 3rd Street about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, police said. They later determined the man was 32-year-old Jacob Mercer (pictured). He was charged with armed robbery.
Investigators said Mercer entered the store, showed a silver handgun and demanded money. The clerk told police he refused to give the man money and threw a jar of ranch dip at him, hitting him in the face.
After Mercer fled in a silver four-door vehicle with a New York license plate, police tracked him to a home on 5th Street South in Jacksonville Beach. A witness who said he saw Mercer pull off his mask as he was getting into the vehicle later positively identified Mercer as the man who fled from the convenience store in the costume, police said.
Richard Ehrman was one witness who said he saw Mercer before the robbery and thought that he was acting strange.
"We were coming up here to buy beer and there was a guy standing at the corner and the reason I recognized him because he had a horseshoe in his nose," Ehrman said.
Police said that after Ehrman left the store, Mercer put on a Darth Vader mask and walked into the store holding a gun and demanded money.
"It was a very serious incident, not only for the clerk that is being a victim of the armed robbery, but anyone could have walked in at that time or what if someone was already in the back of that store. There are so many scenarios that could have played out," Jacksonville Beach Police Cmdr. Mark Evans, said.
Ehrman said he wished he could have prevented the robbery, but that the clerk acted like a real hero.
"He got caught. Paul busted him in the nose with a jar. That was killer. That was awesome. If I had been inside this store, he would have been on the ground," Ehrman said.
Police eventually caught up with Mercer after he fled the store at a house not far away. After a short standoff involving police and K9 units, Mercer eventually surrendered and police discovered the gun he had used was a fake.
Police said they did find a real gun and ammunition in Mecer's backpack in the home and that this wasn't the first time he was charged with armed burglary.
According to police records Mercer spent more than two-and-a-half years in prison for armed aggravated assault and burglary.
Police said that if you are a store clerk and find yourself in a situation like this, the best thing to do is to try and get away and call 911. They said they're happy everything worked out in this situation, but they believe this could have been much worse.