New York City Storeowner Kills Would-Be Robbers

| by Reason Foundation

Charles "Gus" Augusto Jr., 72, owns Kaplan Brothers Blue Flame Corporation, a restaurant supply company on 125th St. and Amsterdam in Manhattan that opened way back in 1927. At 3 p.m. yesterday Augusto and his two assistants were visited by four men, one armed with a handgun, who intended to requisition the company's rather limited cash supply. Equipped with plastic handcuffs and duct tape, the robbers pistol-whipped one of Augusto's employees and attempted to bind his hands:

The employee, who goes by J. B. and declined to give his last name, said that he “lost my mind” while the robbers tried to restrain him with duct tape, and that when he struggled, he was hit with the pistol.

During the melee, Augusto retrieved his shotgun and open fired, killing two of the robbers (and injuring the other two). The Times fills in the details:

Watching it happen, Mr. Augusto, whom neighborhood friends call Gus, rose from a chair 20 to 30 feet away and took out a loaded Winchester 12-gauge pump-action shotgun with a pistol-grip handle. The police said he bought it after a robbery 30 years ago.

Mr. Augusto, who has never been in trouble with the law, fired three blasts in rapid succession, the police said, although Vernon McKenzie, working at an Internet company next door, heard only two booms, loud enough to send him rushing to a window, where he heard someone shout: “You’re dead! You’re dead!”

The first shot took down the gunman at the front. He died almost immediately, according to the police, who said he was 29 and had been arrested for gun possession in Queens last year and was the nephew of a police officer.

Mr. Augusto’s other two blasts hit all three accomplices, who stumbled out the door, bleeding.

One of them, a 21-year-old, staggered across 125th Street and collapsed in front of the General Grant Houses, a nine-building complex with 4,500 residents, one of the city’s biggest housing projects. Someone called 911, and an ambulance rushed him to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he was dead on arrival. The police said he had a record of arrests for weapons possession and robbery.

Interviewed yesterday by The New York Times, local residents seemed united in support of Augusto:

“How the hell are you going to rob someone in broad daylight?” said Sarah Martin, president of the General Grant Residents Association. Looking around at the crowd of people, she added, “They’re very upset, the people who live in this area.”

Gene Hernandez, 47, sympathized with Mr. Augusto, but not with the would-be robbers. “If I were him, I would kill a dozen of them,” he said. “You have to protect your workers and your family. Case closed.”

Stefany Blyn, who leases a commercial building from Mr. Augusto, described him as a “laid-back, unexcitable guy,” who often lounged in his chair on the sidewalk...

“He was trying to make a living in his business,” said John E. Walker, who works at Drum Television Network, next door.

Venus Singleton, 51, said she hoped that Mr. Augusto would not get into trouble over the shootings. “I hope that the gun was licensed and that he was in his rights,” she said.

In a follow up story, Augusto told The Times that he had a permit for the weapon, which sat unused for a few decades:

Mr. Augusto said he had bought the gun, a Winchester 12-gauge pump-action with a pistol-grip handle, after a robbery 20 years ago and had a permit for it. “Not even touched in 20 years,” he said. “Not even touched. I wish I didn’t need to.”

No word on whether the Keystone Robbers were violating New York City's strict gun laws.

Full story.