There are legal ways for stores to deal with hot checks. They can contact the customer and convince him or her to pay up. Failing that, they can go to small claims court. They can file a police report. They can even post offenders' photos at the cash register as a kind of rite of public shaming.
One thing they definitely cannot do is fire a handgun as they chase the hot-check writer from their store and follow him home. Well, they can. It's just not legal.
Yong Hyon Yu seems to have missed that part. The 45-year-old was working behind the counter at C&P Grocery in Southeast Dallas just before 7 p.m. Wednesday when Miguel Araiza walked in.
At first, Yu didn't recognize the 26-year-old, who paid for his purchase and started to leave. Then, as Araiza was walking out the door, Yu glanced at the photo lineup of hot-check writers the store keeps behind the counter. According to a police report, he yelled at Araiza to come back, then pointed to his picture on the piece of paper. He had tried to cash a check weeks earlier that had bounced and owed the store money, Yu explained. It was time to pay up.
Araiza didn't deny bouncing the check but said he didn't have the money to pay his debt. So, police say, Yu told a colleague to call police and fetch his shotgun. He racked the weapon and pointed it at the ground. Araiza told police that he pleaded with the clerk to be reasonable. He didn't have the cash right then, but he lived right around the corner.
Yu put down the shotgun and followed him outside, stopping at his truck to get his Smith & Wesson pistol. "You don't have to do all that," Araiza told him, but Yu merely racked the handgun, pointed it to the side, and fired a single round into the ground. Then, Yu climbed in his pickup and tailed Araiza as he walked the short distance to his house. Yu stood outside when Araiza went in, pacing back and forth with the handgun holstered on his belt, then began pounding on the door. Araiza yelled that he had no money and, after a while, Yu left.
Police pulled Yu's truck over on the way back to the store. He still had the Smith & Wesson. "When I first moved into the store in December, the black and Mexican people made fun of me," he later explained to officers. "I had to show them that I am tough."
Araiza certainly wasn't laughing at Yu by that point. Neither were police. They arrested Yu for deadly conduct and took him to Lew Sterrett.