Iowa Clerk, 84, Loses Job Over Gas Thief Confrontation

| by Jared Keever
Gas PumpGas Pump

And 84-year-old Iowa man says he is out of a job and facing criminal charges after confronting a group of people he thought was stealing gas from the gas station where he worked. 

“All I was trying to do was stop a thief,” Glenn Zirbel, a gas clerk, told KCCI News.

Zirbel said he always kept a hammer by his side for protection when he worked nights at the Kum & Go gas station in Ankeny, Iowa. He added that he used it many times during the 16 years he was an employee there. 

But when he used it while confronting suspected gas thieves recently, he says, it cost him his job. He said he wasn’t surprised though. 

“They told me not to chase cars,” Zirbel said, speaking of the gas station’s management. 

Zirbel recounted the recent experience to KCCI, saying that he had told a group of people at the pump they hadn’t paid for their gas yet.  

“I asked them to come in and pay and they said they did,” Zirbel said.  “I said, ‘Well it didn’t work.’ They said they paid with a card. It didn’t work and I said if you come inside we will straighten it up.”

That’s when, Zirbel says, the driver tried to drive off and Zirbel used his hammer. 

“I didn’t exactly mean to but I broke the back window,” he said. 

The driver and the two passengers called 911. An officer showed up and questioned Zirbel. 

“He wanted to know why I carry a hammer, and I said when I am confronting a thief, that’s what I do,” Zirbel said. 

Kum & Go would not confirm the incident with KCCI, citing employee confidentiality concerns, but did say in a written statement that employees “are instructed not to attempt to stop a vehicle in this situation.”

Ankeny police seem to agree. 

“We don’t condone any type of confrontation,” Brian Kroska told KCCI. “Especially for a property crime.”

Zirbel was arrested and charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief. 

He is due in court Sept. 22. 

It’s not the first time Zirbel has made the news for using his hammer. In 2011 KCCI did another story about him after he reportedly smacked an armed robber in the head with the hammer. 

Zirbel told KCCI recently that he has thrown his hammer at gas drive-offs in the past and even smashed out the headlights of a car when he caught a teenage driver and passengers stealing beer.

He added that he didn’t have any regrets about the recent incident when asked. 

“No, I was ready to retire anyhow,” he said. “And I still think I was in the right.”

Kum & Go reportedly would not say if they were pursuing charges against the people in the car. 

Zirbel’s story is at least the second time KCCI has reported that a Kum & Go employee has lost a job over chasing a gas drive-off. 

In June 2014, KCCI reported that 19-year-old Thomas Steward said he confronted a suspected gas thief at a Des Moines, Iowa, Kum & Go during an evening shift. 

When the man drove off, Steward said he chased the suspect in his own vehicle. The chase reportedly culminated with Steward side swiping the suspect's vehicle, then getting punched in the face and getting his own car rammed. 

Police later arrested the suspect. Police told KCCI that clerks shouldn’t chase down suspects on their own. 

The chase also cost Steward his job. 

But, unlike Zirbel, he seemed to regret his decision. He said it wasn’t worth losing his job over. 

“Would I do the same thing?” Steward said. “Probably not.”

Sources: KCCI (2)

Flickr: Mike Mozart/Flickr (2)