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VICTIM TAKES HUMOROUS TACK ON RECOVERY

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When 40-year-old James J. Gamble clocked in at 11 p.m. April 25 at a 7-Eleven store at 910 N. 900 West, he didn't realize he would leave his workplace an hour later on a stretcher, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.

Nearly 2 1/2 months after he was left with a bullet embedded near his spinal cord, Gamble spoke recently with the Deseret News of the robbery, his painful recovery and the need to protect convenience store workers through creative strategies and community cooperation."Beyond the store and employees, the entire community needs to be aware and care enough to be involved," he said, urging employers to take creative measures to improve safety conditions for their workers.

A small-business operator by trade and tenor by choice, Gamble had supplemented his income by working at the convenience store for six years prior to the April incident. After recovering the use of his jaw, which was shattered by the bullet, Gamble said he is now preparing to return to work at the store.

"These kinds of incidents are so rare, it's just like any other occupation with its hazards," he said. Armed with a heaping dose of humor and faith in humanity, Gamble said he can forgive the men responsible for the incident and is ready to get on with life.

He has resumed his role singing tenor with the Utah Symphony chorus and recently returned from a venue in Sun Valley, Idaho, where he sang with Pro Musica of Utah.

Following its performance, the group presented Gamble with a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase, "Don't Shoot! I'm a Tenor!"

"Part of my personal therapy is that we're keeping a sense of humor about this whole thing," he said. "Some people in the tenor section were milling around and one of them made the comment, `Gee, if they had to shoot somebody, why couldn't it be a bass, not a tenor. We need our tenors, there are so few of us."

The joke caught on, and prompted Gamble to pen several humorous poems about his plight, including:

There once was a tenor named Jim,

Whose voice sang a trifle bit thin.

Then his head took a round.

Now, he's starting to sound

Just like Pavarotti's great twin.

While Gamble chooses to take a good-natured approach to recovery, he said he recognizes the dilemma that has resulted from increased gang violence and the need for crime prevention measures throughout the industry.

Gamble recalled that, prior to his being shot, the convenience store had emptied of customers and two boys walked in, both wearing red bandanas. They bought a pack of gum.

"The second I opened that till, the gun whipped out, the bandanas went up on their faces and they started yelling at me to give them the money," he said. "I instantly grabbed the bills from the till and put that on the counter. I reached in for a roll of quarters and the guy said, `We don't want that, we want all the big bills that you're hiding underneath. So, I'm going, `Oh great, these kids don't have a clue as to how this operates.' "

Gamble was shot in the head as he turned to show the boys that he didn't have access to more money. He pulled himself off the floor and into an adjacent doorway, called 911 and waited for police.

"I knew that when I got up off the floor and saw the blood there, I needed help in a hurry," he said.

Gamble also recalled a single graveyard shift at the store, where employees were held up twice in separate armed robbery incidents.

Yet he said he believes the job of convenience-store worker is as safe as any other, depending on the store location and neighborhood. It's a philosophy shared by experts who study the industry and its relationship to crime.

Research indicates that 80 percent of U.S. convenience stores were considered relatively crime-free during a 12-month period in 1989-90, according to Lindsay Hutter, vice president of industry relations for the National Association of Convenience Stores, based in Alexandria, Va.

Some 13 percent of convenience stores nationwide reported only one robbery during the same period, with 7 percent reporting two or more robberies in the single year, she said.

The figures mirror those profiled in a study commissioned by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice.

Jay Malcan, a criminologist with the Virginia Crime Prevention Center in Richmond, said that while the number of convenience store robberies rose by 38 percent nationally from 1985 and 1991, the frequency of the crime is related to both location and store design.

The association represents a national membership of more than 1,400 member companies and 62,000 stores. Hutter said most operations have adopted the suggestions of crime deterrence that came from research involving prisoners convicted of convenience store-related crime.