Christopher Gordon Flowers didn’t have a job, was behind on bills and feared going to jail if he didn’t pay court fees for past legal problems.
His fiancee said those money woes “got to his head” Monday. He’s accused of botching a robbery at a Goose Creek convenience store, then tying up its owner with scarves and setting off an 80-minute hostage situation.
Christina Brown said after Flowers appeared in court Tuesday that he didn’t mean to shoot the worker and never threatened to kill the man and his family, as police officials have alleged.
Flowers’ gun went off during a tussle, and he restrained the worker to prevent further struggle, according to the woman who has three children with the suspect.
The crisis ended when Flowers called police, acknowledged that his robbery attempt had failed and surrendered.
“He told (the worker) to shut up ... but it did not happen like that,” Brown said. “He made some wrong decisions, and now he can’t take it back.”
Flowers, a 31-year-old resident of Sarah Drive in Goose Creek, faces felony charges of attempted murder, armed robbery, kidnapping and possession of a firearm during a violent crime. He was jailed in lieu of $80,000 bail.
Arrest affidavits stated that the incident was captured by a surveillance camera and that Flowers later confessed during a taped interview.
He has three misdemeanor convictions since February 2010 for unlawfully carrying a firearm, marijuana possession and check fraud.
His alleged victim, a 51-year-old North Charleston man who owns the Beer and Tobacco Food Mart at 139 Red Bank Road, was expected to recover after suffering a bullet wound to a finger and a neck injury from being tied up that made it difficult for him to talk.
Goose Creek police said Flowers went to the store about 6 p.m. Monday, pointed a 9 mm Bryco Arms pistol and demanded money.
The worker went into “fight or flight” mode, court documents stated. The two wrestled for the handgun, and Flowers held the weapon to the worker’s head, the affidavits stated.
When the worker tried to swat it away, the pistol went off. A bullet tore through his left pinky finger.
After the gunfire, Flowers took cash from two registers and used scarves from store racks to bind the worker’s hands, feet and neck, according to the documents.
Customers tried to enter the store and saw a man crawling on the floor. The front and back doors were locked, so they called police.
Officers knew something was wrong when they saw broken glass inside and two cash registers ajar. They pried on a back door, opening it enough to see the bound-up worker. He told them that an armed robber was inside.
The authorities backed off, trained their guns on the store and summoned a SWAT team.
For more than an hour, the worker said Flowers threatened to kill him, his wife, his 7- and 4-year-old children and his infant born late last week, according victim’s advocate Levolia Rhodes.
“The victim repeatedly begged for his life,” Rhodes said. “(He) feels as though ... he would be a dead man” if the police didn’t show up at the right time.
Brown said Flowers wouldn’t have done that because he has children of his own. He didn’t go to the store with plans to hurt anyone, she said.
“He was steady getting attacked by the man and wanted him to calm down,” Brown said. “It wasn’t supposed to happen like that.”
As officers with rifles amassed outside, Flowers called 911 and offered to surrender.
“I attempted to rob him,” he said, according to a copy of the call. “Things didn’t go the way I planned. ... He fought and police were called.”
About 7:20 p.m., he walked through the front door and was handcuffed.
He said during a bond hearing the next day that he didn’t understand why he was charged with attempted murder, but he nodded his head to the other counts.