Alleged Robber, Turned by Prayer, Apologizes

Robbery suspect says God was working through clerk who talked him out of heist.

October 20, 2009, 7:14 PM

Oct. 23, 2009— -- Hours after an Indianapolis store clerk said divine intervention helped her convince a would-be thief to give up mid-heist, the alleged robber agreed that God played a major role in his dramatic change of heart.

"It had to be God working through her because she just talked to me like a mother or a grandmother to her child, and she made me feel comfortable," robbery suspect Gregory Smith, 23, said in an emotional jailhouse interview with ABC News' Indianapolis affiliate WRTV Thursday. "I started telling her stuff I hadn't even told my own mother. I even tried to give her the gun, she wouldn't take it.

"To everybody who I've affected with this, I just want to say I'm sorry for putting you all through this," he said.

Store clerk Angela Montez said Thursday it was divine intervention that led Smith to give up his heist and talk and pray with her for nearly 40 minutes Monday before turning himself in to Indianapolis police hours later.

"I believe the Lord sent us both together," Montez told "Good Morning America" Thursday in an exclusive interview. "The more we talked, he just broke down. ... He said, 'Talk to me. No one will talk to me. I have nobody.'"

Surveillance cameras recorded video of an armed man, alleged to be Smith of Indianapolis, jumping over the counter at a check cashing store where Montez worked and pointing a gun at her Monday. Montez, fearing for her life, broke down, crying and praying.

"I can't even explain the feeling of a gun," she said. "I remember looking at the silver gun, and the finger was on the trigger. I thought, 'This is it.'"

But after seeing how much he was scaring her, Montez said Smith apologized and tried to explain himself.

"I told him, 'Don't do this. You're young. Don't do this to jeopardize your life,'" she said, echoing the report she gave to a 911 dispatcher after the alleged robbery. "He started crying, 'But we're going to be homeless. I haven't had a job in months. I've tried everything.'"

Smith told Montez, 43, he was an ex-serviceman and had a young baby. He said he didn't know where his mother was at the time and had never known his father.

At one point, Smith reached for the gun again, which scared Montez into praying for her own forgiveness before what she thought was her death, but Smith took out the only bullet in the gun and gave it to her, Montez said.

"Just take it and talk to me," Smith said, according to Montez.

The unlikely pair talked for nearly 40 without being interrupted by anyone else entering the store or any phone calls -- a sign, Montez said, that God wanted them to talk.

"I felt a warmness, even though there was a scare," she said. "There are so many places around us. No one had come to the door. No one called. I can't believe it was that long, when I was told how long we talked."

Store Clerk Feels for Alleged Robber

Finally, Smith left after allegedly taking $20 and Montez's cell phone. Hours later, his mother saw the surveillance video of the incident on a newscast and urged her son to turn himself in.

Clerk: 'My Heart Goes Out to Him'

Lt. Jeff Duhammell of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police said Montez did well.

"How people react, we just don't know until they're faced with it," he said. "She did an extremely good job, and should be commended for her actions."

Montez denied that she had been brave throughout the incident.

"I was not brave, I was very scared and crying," she said.

Smith was arrested on robbery and firearm charges. Montez said it could be God's will that he spends some time in prison.

"Who knows, maybe the Lord will use him in jail," she said. "My heart goes out to him."

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