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Clerk thwarts robbery at Freeport convenience store

| Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013, 12:13 p.m.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
BP Fueland cashier Michelle Hawthorne confronted a strong-armed robber on Tuesday morning, Feb. 26, 2013, at the Freeport convenience store. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
Freeport BP Fueland robbery suspect Joshua Lang, left, is taken by state police into District Justice Gary DeComo's office in Ford City on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 26, 2013.
Eric Felack, Valley News Dispatch
Freeport and state police investigate an attempted strong-arm robbery at the BP Fueland in Freeport on Tuesday morning, Feb. 26, 2013. Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch

A would-be robber assaulted the wrong clerk at a Freeport convenience store Tuesday morning.

The man shoved Michelle Hawthorne, a clerk at the BP Fueland, but she fought back.

“He punched me and that was it. I wasn't going to take it,” said the resident of Freeport's Laneville section.

The petite clerk responded by hitting the man back and pushing him out of the store.

After removing suspect Joshua Paul Lang at about 8:20 a.m., Hawthorne gave state police a description that led to his arrest.

Lang, 32, of 115 Fourth St., Apt. 8, Freeport, is facing attempted robbery and three other charges.

He was in the Armstrong County Jail on Tuesday in lieu of bond.

Police said Lang walked into the store at 222 Buffalo St., Freeport, and asked Hawthorne for cigarettes. When she reached for the packs to her left, the man walked around the counter and began slapping the register.

“Open it!” he demanded of Hawthorne.

“I thought he was teasing. Then he started flipping out,” she said.

Hawthorne said she got mad after the robber shoved her.

“No one touches me like that,” said the 36-year-old mother of three sons.

She went on the attack and shoved Lang back, grabbing him by the neck and pushing him out of the store.

“I got so mad that he hit me,” she said later while smiling and selling coffee, newspapers and food to regular customers.

Hawthorne said she was able to push the man to the store's front door but things suddenly stopped.

“He was holding onto the door. It was a little funny and a little sad. I pushed him out the door and he left on foot,” she said.

State police said Hawthorne immediately called 911 and gave them a good description.

She told them he was wearing gray sweat pants, navy shirt and navy-colored hat.

Police said they spotted a man walking along Market Street, Freeport, wearing the same clothing seen in surveillance footage and described by Hawthorne.

Lang was arraigned by Ford City District Judge J. Gary DeComo.

In addition to attempted robbery, Lang is charged with attempted theft, simple assault, and harassment.

DeComo ordered Lang sent to the Armstrong County Jail in lieu of $50,000 cash bond.

Records show Lang served almost a year in the county jail in 2006 and 2007 for the same type of robbery. He was sent to ARC Manor for drug treatment after he was released.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4711 or cbiedka@tribweb.com.

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