Friends mourn Jacksonville gas station clerk shot in robbery

The shooting unfolded early Saturday at a GATE gas station on Merrill Road

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A clerk wounded in an armed robbery at an Arlington gas station over the weekend has died of his injuries, and police are looking for the shooter.

The shooting unfolded during a pre-dawn robbery Saturday at the GATE gas station located on Merrill Road near Townsend Boulevard, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office said Martin Hower, 55, was shot in the abdomen. Hower, a New York transplant, was taken to an area hospital, but he did not survive.

A longtime friend of Hower's said it's difficult to believe he's gone. In the wake of Hower's shooting, Andreas Mackey said there needs to be more security in place for clerks.

"Why kill that man?" Mackey wondered aloud Monday. "For what reason? For money, they needed money. Hell, I would've given him money out of my account, but why did that kill a man."

Mackey said Hower was fearless despite working overnight hours at a convenience store, which is the sort of business robbers tend to target.

"He would say, 'Go get a job,'" he said. "I'd say, 'I agree with you, Martin, but we are old school, we believe in going to get a job.' These people don't care these days. They shoot you for nothing."

Mackey said this incident underscores why clerks should be protected in the workplace. He said those security measures could include bulletproof glass, limited hours or armed security.

"Me personally, I think they (clerks) should be able to carry," he added.

In a statement provided by a spokesperson, GATE president John Peyton lamented the loss of Hower, whom he described as a "shining example of a dedicated and caring co-worker, employee and friend."

"The loss is immeasurable for us and for the countess customers who have made conversations with Martin a part of their regular routines. We are mourning this tragic passing and we are in prayer for his loved ones and friends, many of whom he worked alongside every day. We continue to assist JSO in every way possible to ensure the suspect is brought to justice."

Colleen Kersten is a regular customer at the gas station who frequently chatted with Hower when she stopped in to purchase cigarettes. She said she was devastated by the news.

"Fifteen years he did his job, and he didn’t do anything to anybody," said Kersten.

The shooter is described as 5-foot-9, in his 20s and with dreadlocks. Police said he was wearing a black sweater and black jeans at the time.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 866-845-TIPS.