Clerk's fervor dissuades robber

MIAMI — Nayara Goncalves already experienced one of the "biggest moments" of her life: becoming a Christian.

The second came on a recent Friday, when the 20-year-old cell phone store manager put her good works to good use — persuading a would-be armed robber to put away his gun and leave her store in the name of the Lord.

Every moment of the more than five-minute exchange between a calm Goncalves and the nervous, unidentified robber was captured on a store surveillance camera.

The robber walked into a MetroPCS store in Pompano Beach, Fla., around 10 a.m July 23, wearing a dark cap and jacket and holding an umbrella.

He exchanged pleasantries with Goncalves, asking whether she was keeping dry, then asked to see a phone.

Moments later, he reached into his coat, apparently showing her a gun. He apologized: "I really hate to do this. ... Don't be scared."

"I'm not scared," replied Goncalves, a devout Christian who was working alone. She calmly walked back to her cash register, telling the man, "You can do whatever you want, but I'm just going to talk to you about Jesus, my God, before you leave."

The man momentarily paused, and said, "God bless you for that."

Goncalves told him she is a Christian. He replied sheepishly, "So am I and I absolutely hate doing this. I do. I'm embarrassed to do this. But I have no choice."

He said he had attended Calvary Chapel.

"Calvary Chapel?" "Pastor Bob?" Goncalves asks, saying she had visited there.

Yes, the robber replies, "Pastor Bob."

"I'm so sorry to put you through this," he said.

Attempts to reach Pastor Bob Coy at Calvary Chapel in North Broward were unsuccessful.

Goncalves continued to talk to the man, giving soothing responses of "I know, I know," as he opened up about his troubles — telling Goncalves he's married, has a job, and that he needed $300 to stave off eviction.

As if sensing an opening, Goncalves continued, her voice breaking for a split second, "I don't know what you're going through. But all of us are going through a hard time right now."

The man barely looked at her. "That's why I refuse to do anything out in the streets. I've never done this before."

She offered to connect him with friends to help him find a job. He said he had had one.

She suggested he seek a loan from a friend. He said he spent the last three days trying to do that, to no avail.

"I'm not very good at this obviously. If there's no money in the register, can you show me?"

The man reasoned that since she wasn't the store's owner, "I wouldn't be hurting you."

But her single break from the truth came when she gently fibbed that her employer would take any stolen money out of her pay.

He threw in the towel.

"I don't want to do that to you. I'm sorry," he said, turning to walk away. "I understand you still have to call the police ... "

Broward sheriff's deputies were still looking for the man.