“It’s fear,” said Husein Bataineh, manager of the Potomac Mills Exxon on Gideon Road. “When they are pumping their gas, they are looking around.”
“Customers are talking about [the shooting of a man who was pumping gas at the Battlefield Sunoco on Sudley Road,]” Bataineh said. “It’s a scary thing.”
Gas stations throughout the Prince William area report declines in sales since the shooting spree that has claimed seven lives in the D.C. area began about a week ago.
Some gas station sales are down by 20 to 30 percent. Some report that evening and overnight business is off the most.
Almost all report anxious customers.
“I was looking around to see if someone might be hiding in the bushes,” said Mary Mitchell Young of Woodbridge. She stopped at the Potomac Mills Mobil on Gideon to buy gas. “You can’t help but think about it.”
The Battlefield Sunoco on Sudley Road is located near Interstate 66. Law enforcement officials report witnesses saw a white van leave the area of the shooting and head towards I-66.
Both the Potomac Mills Exxon and Mobil stations are located near Interstate 95. The similarities and possible increased safety risk was not lost on the customers of the gas stations or the managers.
“These are the closest stations to [I-95,]” Bataineh said. “People are concerned about that.”
And so was Bataineh, who told his wife if she needed to stop for gas to do so at a station not located near a highway.
Closer to the shooting scene, the tension at gas stations was even greater.
“Obviously, people are concerned,” said Nadeem Choudhry, an employee at Westgate Shell Servicenter, located 1.1 miles from Battlefield Sunoco. “I had a customer in here just a little while ago who was ducking down beside his car as he pumped his gas.”
There is a line of trees across from the Servicenter, Choudhry said. “It doesn’t feel safe. This is no way to live,” he said.
Even stations not located near interstate highways or the crime scene report nervous customers.
“People are scared,” said Amir Khan, an employee at Shirley Exxon on U.S. 1 in Woodbridge. “They are pumping their gas quickly. They don’t want to stay around and talk. They almost don’t want to get outside at all.”
Many gas station employees said they have seen an increase in the number of drivers who are waiting inside their cars while the gas is being pumped.
While many expressed some degree of concern about being a potential target, a sense of resolve remained with some.
“I thought about [the shooting] but you have to keep living your life,” said Erika Thomas of Woodbridge while she pumped gas at the Tiger Mart Exxon station at the corner of Smoketown and Old Bridge roads in Lake Ridge. “It could happen anytime anywhere. What are you going to do about it? I needed gas to go to work.”
Maybe one of the few gas stations in the area to report little impact from the shooting on Thursday was Cornwell’s Texaco on Dumfries Road near the Prince William County Fairground.
Debbie Cornwell, daughter of the owner, said that was likely due to their rural location.
Anxious drivers in the area might be interested to know that Cornwell’s is a full-service gas station. Customers don’t have to get out of their cars if they don’t want to, Cornwell said.