POMPANO BEACH, Fla. (BP)–A young woman working as a clerk at a cell phone store in Pompano Beach, Fla., was able to persuade a man not to proceed with an attempted robbery by talking to him about Jesus.
A surveillance camera captured the entire ordeal as Israel Camacho, 37, walked into a Metro PCS cell phone store around 10 a.m. July 23 and began talking to the clerk, the only person in the store, about the rainy weather. Then he asked about the price of a phone before pulling a gun and asking for money.
As she walked to the register, the clerk, 20-year-old Nayara Goncalves, said, “You can do whatever you want, but I’m just going to talk to you about Jesus, my God, before you leave.”
Camacho said he was embarrassed and hated having to take money but he had no choice.
“Jesus got something way better for you,” Goncalves said. “I don’t know what you are going through, but all of us are going through a hard time right now.”
The man said he was a Christian and the two realized that they had both attended Calvary Chapel in Pompano Beach and both knew of “Pastor Bob,” presumably Bob Coy. Camacho continued to apologize to Goncalves, and she offered to help him find a job.
When he said he already had a job, she asked why he was trying to rob a store, and he said that if he didn’t come up with $300 he was going to be evicted. She urged him to try to get a loan from a friend, and he said he had spent the past three days trying to do that.
Camacho asked to see the money in the register, and when Goncalves showed it to him, he said he would need to take all of it. When she told him the store owner would hold her accountable for the money, though, he changed his mind.
“I don’t want to do that to you. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said.
As Camacho walked out of the small store, Gonzales told him, “Jesus helps you. He can change your life. Go back to church. Find a job. Get real friends in church. Talk to a pastor. They can pray for you. You don’t need to do this. Jesus is coming soon.”
Goncalves continued to plead with the man to turn to Jesus and not to hurt anyone. She also thanked him for not hurting her. Camacho confessed that his weapon was only a BB gun and that he wasn’t very good at robbery.
After he left, Goncalves started crying and called police. Less than two hours later, Camacho put a gun in a shoebox and robbed a Payless Shoe Store, according to The Miami Herald July 29. As he left the shoe store, Camacho said to his victims, “God bless you.”
Camacho was arrested two days later and was described as a serial robber. He has been in and out of jail in Florida since 1998, including an 18-month prison stay six years ago for forging documents and grand theft. In addition to robbery charges, Camacho was being held in Broward County Jail for failure to pay child support, The Herald said.
Kayla Concepcion, a spokesperson for the sheriff’s office, said the cell phone store incident with Goncalves discussing Jesus was “completely unique.”
“Usually we would tell people that you just comply with whatever the demands of the robber are,” Concepcion said, according to ABC News. “This definitely turned out to work well for her.”
Compiled by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach.