Plainfield man convicted of shooting, beating store owner during violent 2013 robbery

A Union County jury has returned guilty verdicts against a Plainfield man who shot and beat a store owner during the course of a violent robbery a little more than two years ago, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Friday.

James Knight Jr., 59, was convicted of first-degree attempted murder, first-degree robbery, two counts of aggravated assault, and two related weapons offenses following a three-week trial before state Superior Court Judge Robert J. Mega. The jury deliberated during the course of several hours before returning its verdicts late Thursday.  

It was approximately 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, 2013 when Knight entered Alondra’s Variedades convenience store on the 300 block of Park Avenue in Plainfield and asked the lone employee in the store, its then-52-year-old owner, to see a bottle of cologne on a shelf, according to Union County Assistant Prosecutor David Zeitzoff, who prosecuted the case. When she retrieved the bottle and turned to face him again, Knight had a firearm pointed directly at her, Zeitzoff said.

Knight then discharged a single round into the left side of the store owner’s chest. The gun jammed as Knight attempted to fire at her again, after which he struck her with the firearm, then beat her over the head with a chair before attempting to flee the area.

The victim subsequently was rushed to a local hospital, where she received lifesaving medical attention. Guided by eyewitnesses, arriving Plainfield Police Division patrol units arrested Knight minutes later as he hid between boxes at another nearby store he had entered to avoid detection. Officers also later retrieved the handgun used in the robbery and uncovered surveillance video evidence from a nearby store.

Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for January 15, 2016, at which time Knight could receive a term of 20 years to life in state prison.