A jeweler spent the rest of his life wishing he had never chased after two men who robbed his Brooklyn store. He told his family that he meant only to wound them when he pulled the trigger. Insurance, he lamented, would have covered the theft.
For as long as there have been stickup men, there have been shopkeepers who fought back. Shooting the robbers was in some ways the simplest part, requiring only the reflexes of a survivor, and a gun — though more than a few store owners have been prosecuted for using unlicensed firearms.
The real pain came in the weeks and years that followed. The proprietors replayed the violence that had marched into their cramped bodegas, restaurants or jewelry stores, cursing the career criminals or desperate men who had threatened their livelihoods — their lives, even — and their sanity.
The deep regret such violence can create was hinted at last week when the owner of a restaurant supply store in Harlem killed two robbers with a pump-action shotgun. The owner, Charles Augusto Jr., expressed sympathy for the families of the dead men, and said he wished they had just left his store.
His emotions echoed those of Peter Giron, the co-owner of a South Bronx dry cleaning establishment who shot and killed a 17-year-old gunman in 1978. Mr. Giron collapsed and had to be sedated after the 17-year-old’s father visited his store and politely asked about the shooting.
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A few owners said the shootings in their pasts, even those from decades ago, were still too painful to talk about. One, who would speak only anonymously, said, “I’ve been trying to forget about this since it happened.”
Ivan Blume, who wrested a gun away from a robber and killed both him and his accomplice at his store, Quality Canines, in Brooklyn, in 2003, would say only, “It’s a chapter in my life I’d rather close.” Read more