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Robber shoots clerk in head at Alvarado travel center

Police say they are searching for a robber who walked into the Shell Travel Center in Alvarado early Wednesday and shot a 52-year-old female store clerk in the head.

Karen Burke, 52, of Alvarado, was in critical condition at John Peter Smith hospital, police said.

Investigators have reviewed a surveillance video of the shooting that occurred about 1:35 a.m. at the store just off the northbound service road of Interstate 35W, said Alvarado Police Chief John Allen. Alvarado is about 27 miles south of downtown Fort Worth.

Burke appeared to be mopping in front of the store’s counter when the robber walked in and shot her at close range, apparently without saying a word, he said.

"It was cold-blooded," Allen said. “She may not have even known he was there. If another customer had walked in, I have no doubt they probably would have gotten shot, too.”

The robber walked behind the counter and tried to open the cash register, Allen said. However, the register requires a security code and the robber couldn’t get it open.

Eventually, he walked out without any cash, Allen said.

Moments before the shooting, Burke had stepped outside the store, possibly to dump the mop bucket, Allen said. The robber came inside almost immediately after she returned.

“We think he was probably out there in the dark waiting for his chance,” Allen said. “That store is right off the interstate so there are customers going in and out. One of our officers was there 30 minutes before this happened.”

A customer found Burke bleeding from the head about 5 minutes after the shooting, he said. The customer thought she had fallen and called 911 to report an injured person.

Firefighters and paramedics arrived and Burke was taken by helicopter ambulance to John Peter Smith. During the flight, paramedics cleaned the wound, realized it was a gun shot and alerted Alvarado police, Allen said.

Burke’s daughter was with her mother at the hospital, Allen said.

Police gave the surveillance video to the FBI, who is trying to improve its quality, he said. The robber appeared to be between 5 feet and 5 feet 4 inches tall, possibly Hispanic, and wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt.