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I’m sure I’ve written this story before on this blog but can’t find it so here it goes. One of the most unexpected experiences I’ve ever had was a trip to the convenience store for some cupcakes. The assistant fire chief also operated the city water plant. He called me one day to meet him at the city’s water pumping station.
He was very concerned by the bullet impressions on the steel door to the pump house. Someone was shooting a very high powered rifle at the door that would almost go through the thick steel. He was worried that if one of them made it to the pump itself it could shut off the city water supply until a new pump could be installed or repaired on site.
Either way the city could be without water for some time if it happened. He wanted me to help surveil the area and see if we could catch who ever was doing it. Our plan was to make our presence known whenever we were there. The town usually only had one police officer on duty at a time and was too busy to spend much time there.
We’d spent a few weeks working alone or together. Mostly sitting on top of a hill that overlooked the area it would be easy to see us and for us to see others moving in the area. Week one, nothing, week two, nothing. We got to thinking that either our presence was having an effect or the shooting was a one time thing and the person might not come back.
It was during a conversation about what to do next I expressed the need for some cupcakes. Assistant chief(AC) said to jump in his truck and we’d head over to a convenience store for some snacks. We were armed with pistols and shotguns. I put my Remington 870 in his truck, got in and he headed off to the store.
There were two convenience stores in town. The town borders a military base so all the business were on the east side of the main highway. From the state line heading north there were many businesses that reached along what was called the strip which ended in an agricultural area. At night someone unfamiliar with the area it might appear to be far away from anything. The police and fire department were only a mile away.
Okay that’s the layout of the area we having a conversation of which store to go to. I wanted hostess cupcakes from the store farther away. There’s no traffic its 3 or 4 am so we’re moving quickly. AC pulled into the highway median directly across from the closest store before the conversation was finished.
We sat there for a moment still in discussion when I noticed the door to the store was propped open. Thats odd I thought, it was winter and cold outside, too cold to leave a door open like that in December. I said something about it to AC when we both noticed there was a man standing in front of the clerk and she was holding her hands up in the air.
AC pulled his truck up a couple of feet and we could see the guy had a gun in hand and was robbing the store. Oh shit I thought what the hell are we going to do now? We quickly decided to leave the truck in the median and wait for him outside the store with our shotguns. We called it in on the radio and ran across the street to the store.
There was one of those outdoor ice cooler stores sell ice out of, AC took a position behind there and I crouched outside the door behind a trash can. There would be no way for him to see us until he came out of the store. We could hear him yelling at the clerk to open the safe. It was a deposit drop/timer safe and couldn’t be opened by the clerk.
I think he saw the truck in the median and began to exit the store. We had no idea where he would go because there wasn’t a car in the lot of the store. When he came out he turned left toward the ice cooler right where AC was standing. AC moved back next to the cooler quickly because he didn’t expect him to move directly toward him. Turns out the guy had parked his car at a used car lot about a 100 feet or so away.
I had missed it but he had also put his pistol in the sack with the money from the cash register. Lucky for him. As he moved toward AC I jumped up behind him and ordered him to stop or I’d shoot him with a shotgun. I didn’t chamber a round to make my point or switch off the safety that had already been done I was ready to shoot him.
Thank goodness he didn’t decide to fight. He saw AC come from concealment with a shotgun and got down on his knees. AC moved to a better position closer to me. Robber was told to move back away from the cooler and sack of money, lay on his stomach, keep his hands visible, not to move, talk or do anything or he’d be shot.
I moved over to where the guy was laying, made him cross his legs then held him at gun point. AC went to pick up the sack when he discovered the pistol. We didn’t have an ETA on the police so we decided we would search him for any other weapons. AC was a big guy so he knelt down on the guys back, searched and found nothing.
Almost as soon as he finished the only officer on duty arrived on-scene, came out of the car with pistol in hand and asked excitedly “did you shoot him?” I said no. He says “why not?” now sounding disappointed. I said “we didn’t have time to he just surrendered” I could tell the officer was so let down we didn’t shoot him.
Soon the guy was in handcuffs and in the patrol car ready to head off to jail. The officer half scaled us for not shooting him. Said they wanted the town to have a reputation for shooting robbers to keep them out of our little town back across the state line. I’ve never seen anyone so disappointed we didn’t shoot someone. Maybe I should have the story’s not finished yet.
Time goes by we get our subpoenas to appear as witnesses for the prosecution. AC and I show up early at the courthouse go say hi to friends working there we haven’t seen for a while. It’s an old courthouse where everyone has to go in the same door, the accused and witnesses. Courthouse staff instructed us to wait in a particular area outside the courtroom.
Something had changed so they requests us to move just outside the courtroom entrance. As we waited for them to call us the jailers brought the robber to the courtroom. For some reason there was a delay and AC, I and the robber ended up standing face to face nearly close enough to touch each other. He was escorted by two jailers. They had complete control and were right on the guy.
I recognized him right away. It must have took him a moment to remember us because at first he didn’t seem to recognize us. Once he did he leaned toward me and told me he did recognize me and was going to kill me and AC if we testified. I got a big smile on my face because just behind him one of the jailers had leaned in to hear what he was saying to me. I looked at the jailer and asked him if he’d heard what robber said and he confirmed he had.
I said to robber you’re the dumbest idiot I’ve met yet. You threaten to kill witnesses in front of a jailer. I probably should remind you I had a shotgun pointed at your head. Now with your threat, you gave me permission to shoot you in the future. I have no other option past this point but to assume if you approach me anytime after this day you’ve come to kill me. But you’ll have to take a number and get in line there are others who feel the same way. And don’t forget I always carry a firearm I’ll be waiting. The jailers laughed.
AC and I were told to move away from the door and wait. The jailers rushed the robber into the courtroom. They informed the judge of what happened. The judge called AC and I into the courtroom and questioned us about the threat made in the hallway. The proceeding for the robbery case was postponed because robber was placed under arrest and charged with two counts of terroristic threats taken back to jail and processed there.
The case must have never went to court. We were never called as witnesses to either the robbery or threat charges but the guy went to prison. Somehow it came down the line he’d be behind bars for 20 years. So far he hasn’t showed up to kill me.
As for the city pump station. Mr. R who was the original owner of the water company. Laughed at us and told us to go get some scrap metal plate from his pile of junk and weld it to reinforce the door and that would be the end of that. He was right. We should have done that to begin with. But if we’d done that we would have missed all the excitement at the robbery. I love working in rural areas there always opportunity for things like that to happen.
One thing I would change about the incident is that AC and I were on opposing sides of the door creating a crossfire situation. If that guy had decided to shoot at either one of us the other would have been in the line of fire. We should have been together or positioned differently. I love remembering all these past incidents. You live, you learn. Don’t forget if you plan on killing me, take a number there’s a line. -13