Self Defense

By lex, on August 16th, 2009

A sleepy shop in Harlem. Two employees – one female – front for an elderly owner. Four young men walk in, one of them armed, and attempt a hold-up. When the male employee resists being bound, he gets struck on the head with a pistol.

And that’s where things get interesting:

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.

The robbers were all in their twenties, three of them 21. Probably thought old Gus was a pushover.

At age 72, Gus pushed back. The neighborhood – which has undergone something of a renaissance since the hard years of the 60s – mostly support him.

“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.”

“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.

It’s possible to feel a degree of sympathy for the young men who lost their lives, and certainly for their families. Times are hard and honest work can be difficult to find. But even given that, I can’t envision any scenario wherein four young men attempt to flex cuff two people while robbing their geriatric employer that doesn’t end up in something awful.

They brought this on themselves.

When the bad thing comes and seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

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Filed under Best of Neptunus Lex, by lex, Carroll "Lex" LeFon, Carroll LeFon, Lex, Neptunus Lex

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