‘That was kinda shocking, to have someone say, “Yeah, you got cancer.”‘
Kevin Basnight says there was nothing out of the ordinary on the night of Monday, Nov. 13, when he started his graveyard shift at the neighborhood 7-Eleven store on E. Gerard Avenue in Merced.
If anything, he was looking forward to early Tuesday morning when his “weekend” would begin, and he could enjoy a couple days off.
The 53-year-old Basnight has been working as a cashier clerk, 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., five days a week, including weekends, for the past 13 years.
He rarely misses a shift, and hardly ever takes a sick day. He lives paycheck to paycheck. And that’s OK. He gets by.
Fridays and Saturdays can get busy, and then there’s the nightly beer runs before 2 p.m., and maybe a few annoying customers, but there’s also the calm in the middle of the night, and those friendly regulars who stop by for something, and have something interesting to say.
Basnight rings up cigarettes, chips, and Lotto scratchers, and drops rolls of 20s into the safe. And he spends the early hours cleaning food equipment, stocking shelves, keeping the beverage cooler full, accepting the occasional delivery and preparing the coffee aisle for the morning commuters.
Unfortunately, yes, there are times when theft occurs, and God forbid, a not-so frequent armed robbery.
But Basnight’s trained to give the bad guys what they want. You don’t argue. You don’t try to be a hero. You just follow directions. The idea is: Criminal lowlifes are there for the money, and once they get the money, they’re gone.
And for 13 years, that’s the way it was for Basnight.
He thought he had experienced it all — up until about 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
That’s when, in a flash, his life changed forever.
Kevin Basnight was not born in Merced. He’s a native of Anchorage, Alaska, where he was raised. His father was in the military and his mother was a homemaker.
As a young man straight out of high school, Basnight was hired by the state’s Department of Natural Resources where he worked for a decade, until he got tired of it. He had a bunch of cash in savings, and he decided to make a trip around the world. That didn’t quite happen, but he did make it to Australia, where he enjoyed life down under for about a year, until he ran out of money.
Basnight eventually made it back to the United States and the Central Valley of California where family members were living. He worked for the postal service for a few years, and then a transportation company. He ended up living with his brother’s family for a while in the Le Grange / Lake Don Pedro area, where he landed a job at a local market. He found a place in Merced to live and commuted for a time, but there came a day when he was laid off by the market. That’s when he searched for a job in Merced, and found one at a neighborhood 7-Eleven store in southeast Merced. The year was 2010.
It seems like the 7-Eleven store at 2255 E. Gerard Ave. has been there forever.
There’s been a 7-Eleven at that site at least since the mid-1980s, back when the surrounding area was considered the outer edge of Merced and the start of farmland.
Surprisingly, the store continues to thrive there, tucked into a corner near Parsons Avenue, a Highway 99 sound barrier, and some narrow residential streets that have been developed over the years with single-family homes.
It’s probably the loneliest 7-Eleven in Merced in terms of retail surroundings just because it’s the only store around. There’s a storage facility next door. There’s a residential neighborhood around back. The Merced Estates mobile home park is just down the way on Gerard, along with Pioneer School in the distance. The Grove apartments are down Parsons a bit.
There’s no exit from the freeway nearby, so it’s not that kind of convenience store. All the action is further down near the new Campus Parkway development, or at Childs Avenue and Motel Drive.
Perhaps the location of this particular 7-Eleven makes it vulnerable to be held up by robbers. Basnight is not too sure, but he does say he was worried about working the graveyard shift when he started more than a decade ago. And sure enough, since then, he’s been robbed at gunpoint about a dozen times.
The first time was the most intense.
“There were two people that were there,” he recalls, “and the guy with the gun actually came around to the back of the counter, which doesn’t usually happen. They usually stand on the other side, demand the money, you give them the money, and they grab it and run. This guy was literally holding a gun to me, telling me to open the cash register drawers and get the cash out. We are not suppose to have anything larger than a $5 bill in the drawer. We drop the $10s, $50s and $100s in a safe. You might have something like $100 in a drawer. ..
“So the guy with the gun to my head is looking at the safe, and he’s telling me to open the safe. It’s a time-lock safe. I don’t have the code to unlock it. And I’m trying not to scream at him as I tell him I have no way of opening it. Finally I said we could vend change from it. The safe can only do that once every 20 minutes. It will drop a tube of about four $20 bills.
“It was surprising but kind of surreal to me, almost unreal. I’ve never been robbed before. I’ve never been face-to-face with a gun. But I did what I was supposed to do. And I didn’t get hurt. I called the police afterward, and I just went back to work the next day. And it was a while before anything like that happened again. But when it did happen again, it was different. Everything went faster. … Normally, they just come in, flash a weapon, demand money, they get the money, and take off. It’s less than a couple minutes.
“Yes you worry about being shot, but I wasn’t going to do anything for that to happen. That’s not what they are there for. They are not there to shoot you. They are there for the money, and the gun is their leverage. You get to thinking, if you follow the store policy, you are going to be fine.”
Up until it wasn’t fine at all.
On Nov. 14 of 2023, sometime around 3 a.m., Basnight noticed a couple of people walking into the parking lot, and they stopped halfway through, and they were just kind of standing there.
The store has cameras all around — the aisles and outside areas are covered. So Basnight went back to the office to look at the cameras. He tried to zoom in because he didn’t recognize the people. It looked like a man and a woman. They eventually separated, with the woman wondering off across the lot to a side street, and the man walking toward the store.
“I didn’t recognize him, but things didn’t seem out of the ordinary. I remember he was wearing a pouch around the front of his waist. He didn’t act nervous or anything like that. He didn’t seem like a person who was going to rob a store. I said ‘Hello,’ and everything, and he asked for a Swisher Sweet.
“I turn around, grabbed what he wanted, scanned it, and then looked up, and he’s got a gun pointed straight at me.
“He tells me don’t touch anything. And I’m like, ‘Nope I’m not touching anything.’ I put my hands up and everything. And he’s telling me to give him the money. And I said, ‘Hey I’ve got to hit buttons to open the drawer.’ So I canceled the sale and did a no-sale to open the drawer. I took out the cash tray, and set it on the counter. And he’s grabbing the money. It was just a bunch of $5s and $1s. He’s putting them in his pockets, and he’s telling me not to do anything. I have my hands up, and then he’s looking at me, and he asks me if there is anything in the back. And I said no. …
“And then, we are just looking at each other. It was like a second or two, and then all of a sudden — BANG.
“He just pulled the trigger.”
Basnight wasn’t sure if the guy took off or what. Everything just went weird. He wasn’t sure exactly what had happened. He was still standing in the same spot.
“I knew he had fired the gun, but it wasn’t like what you see in the movies, and stuff like that. There was no falling over and screaming. I didn’t feel any pain at all. I started patting my chest because I had felt an impact against my body. Did he actually shoot me? It crossed my mind that he might have been using some kind of paintball gun, and he was just messing with me after I gave him the money.”
However, Basnight started getting short of breath. He picked up the phone to call 9-11, but somehow he couldn’t get those numbers right. He stumbled back to the office, and as he did, he could feel heat coming from his back. He reached his hand back to feel the area, and it returned all bloody. And that’s when he realized he was injured.
“I started to panic. I got through to 9-11. I told them the address, that I’ve been shot, and need an ambulance. I’m yelling on the phone, and they were trying to reassure me that someone was on the way. I was bleeding all over the place. The police showed up first, and walked me out the door, and sat me on the curb. … I was thinking I’m going to bleed out and die.
“I remember riding in the ambulance assuming I was going to Mercy. But they didn’t take me inside. They put me on a helicopter. I remember the flight and landing, but that’s it. I must have passed out.”
The next thing Basnight knows is he’s waking up in a hospital room in Modesto.
“I was extremely, extremely lucky,” he says. “It’s almost unbelievable.”
A doctor comes in and explains what happened.
The bullet hit Basnight almost dead center in the chest. It hit the breast bone, just off the right side. The bone deflected the bullet, and it went through his right lung, and then down through his liver, and then out his lower back.
“If it would have gone straight through, I think I would have been dead,” Basnight says.
However, Basnight’s elation was quickly subdued by yet another twist of fate.
“The doctor was explaining what had happened and stuff, and then he just kinda off-hand mentioned that they had seen on the scans a mass on my left kidney. He said, ‘That’s probably cancer.’ And then he just went on explaining other stuff. … That was kinda shocking, to have someone say, ‘Yeah, you got cancer.’”
Before the shooting, Basnight hadn’t been to a primary care physician in over two years. He wasn’t experiencing any kind of health problems. He had no idea. While he was recovering, they did a biopsy on the mass they found. He ended up staying in the hospital for a week with a few complications. He was sent home, but returned a week later with an infection he sustained from the initial hospital stay. When the biopsy results came back, the oncologist at the hospital told Basnight it was definitely cancer.
“He said it was a large tumor, four or five centimeters, and it was spreading. He did say it was very treatable, but they would have to remove the kidney. He also said they found a nodule in his right lung, but it was not biopsied. They didn’t see anything in my brain or head area, so that was good.”
Basnight says some of the nurses and a few family members have mentioned that perhaps the shooting was fortunate because it revealed a deadly cancer that could have spread unchecked. He understands the sentiment of “a blessing in disguise,” but he says it’s hard to put a positive spin on being shot — something he never wants to go through again.
Besides, he’s got other problems that are mounting.
It turns out Basnight’s affordable Covered California Silver EPO plan does not cover the cancer specialists he was seeing in Modesto. They can no longer help him. He’s been spending recent days looking for doctors in his “network.” He did manage to change his plan before open enrollment ended at the end of December. But it’s a waiting game until he can finally get a referral to see a specialist, and hopefully a date for the cancer surgery he desperately needs.
Meanwhile, bills are piling up, as Basnight recovers from his injuries at this brother’s home in La Grange. He doesn’t have a car, so transportation is an issue. And he’s worried about future health care costs.
“I’m totally unprepared for this situation, where I’m not working and I have to deal with things that are potentially going to cost me money out of pocket that I don’t have.”
Friends and family members, however, are rallying for support.
Kevin Basnight’s niece, Moriah Basnight, was the one who contacted the Times about what happened to Kevin.
“My family has started a GoFundMe page online to help Kevin with living and medical expenses,” she wrote. “I believe we can accomplish our goal of supporting him during his recovery by sharing his story with his community through the Merced County Times.”
If anyone reading this wants to help, go online to: GoFundMe.com.
Type “Help Kevin Fight Kidney Cancer” on the search space at the top of the homepage, and you will be directed to the donation page.
So far they have raised about $700 of a total goal of $18,000.
As for Kevin and 7-Eleven, Basnight says he doesn’t think he will ever go back to work there.
“I’ve known the owner for years, and he has been in frequent contact with me. I haven’t’ discussed this with the owner, but this is like a reality check. I have taken too many chances with the robberies and stuff. You are there at night by yourself. It’s kinda out of the way. It’s scary thinking about being there again by myself. What happens when the next guy comes in? … I probably should have stopped sooner. I just don’t want to be in that situation again.”
A suspect has been arrested in connection with the shooting of Kevin Basnight, along with another shooting that killed a teen at a local Halloween party.
Merced police say 21-year-old Darrion Murphy is suspected of shooting and killing 17-year-old Renzo Arellano on Oct. 27, and also suspected in the shooting at the 7-Eleven on Nov. 14.
Merced Police Department Captain Joey Perez called Murphy “a violent predator.”
Police say Murphy had a gun on him when he was arrested in Le Grand on Nov. 21.
Murphy is now facing six more felony charges, including murder and attempted murder.