LENOIR COUNTY - A restaurant co-owner, shot by robbers, said he was lucky the bullet didn't hit anything vital.
Scott Esposito went home Wednesday night after he was shot at the Filling Station, a restaurant North of Deep Run on Highway 11 in Lenoir County.
Esposito was opening the store just after 11:00 a.m. when he said three men entered through the front door. One of them immediately pulled out a gun.
"The guy pulls a gun and tells me he's going to kill me," Esposito said. "I wasn't going to wait and find out if he was being serious. I figure if it's my time to go it's my time to go, but I'm not going to make it easy on anybody."
Esposito said he then punched one of the men and struggled with another robber for his gun. The third robber stepped in, grabbed Esposito's arm. That's when Esposito said he was shot.
"At first, I heard the gun go off, but I felt a little pressure on my leg but didn't know I had been shot," Esposito said. "Luckily for me the doctor said the bullet went all the way through. There was a clean entry and a clean exit."
Esposito said he doesn't know how long it will take for him to recover, but hopes deputies catch whoever is responsible for shooting him.
The Lenoir County Sheriff's Office is offering a $1,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.
A restaurant owner and manager shot in Lenoir County is out of the hospital. But deputies said the three suspects are still on the run.
Scott Esposito (pictured above), 33, of Deep Run, has been treated and released from Vidant Medical Center, a hospital official said Thursday.
According to the Lenoir County Sheriff Chris Hill, Esposito was shot in the leg at The Filling Station on Highway 11, near Bland Howell Road north of Deep Run. It happened at about 11:10 a.m. Wednesday.
Gary Turner was the man who found Esposito shot and lying on the floor.
"There was a great deal of bleeding, so we knew he'd been hit pretty good," Turner said. "We've got a neighbor and a friend here in the community that's been shot, that could've easily have died at this. And all he's doing is trying to run a store and feed his family."
Esposito's uncle, Joe Esposito, arrived at the store shortly after the shooting.
"I don't understand, I'm trying to comprehend, 'why did you shoot him?' Because I know he didn't resist you," Joe said as if he was speaking to the suspects.
Sheriff Hill said he was unsure if anything was stolen from the gas station. No one else was in the store.
Esposito's friend, Robert Robinson, shared his reactions.
"You're out here working and minding your own business, trying to make a living and survive. You have some idiots like that do some stupid things like that. There ain't no sense in it," said Robinson.
Deputies said they are looking for three black males driving an older-model blue Chevy Caprice with a Chevy emblem on the back window. Sheriff Hill told NewsChannel 12 that two of the suspects were wearing ball caps, and one had dreadlocks and gold teeth.
"I'm just praying that the police get him, because people like this, obviously they don't care about life. So, you know, who's the next person?," said Joe Esposito.
Anyone with information on the suspects is asked to call the Lenoir County Sheriff's Office at 252-559-6100.
"We thought we had everybody put to bed here. Obviously we've got another group out committing armed robberies," said Sheriff Hill. "All I can tell 'em is, 'keep it up, we're gonna find you.'"