Granny bar owner chases off armed robber with her own gun

Bill Vidonic - Times Staff
MIDLAND - So this guy with a sawed-off shotgun walks into Josephine's bar and restaurant in Midland around 9 p.m. Wednesday.

But the punch line is: The bar's owner, 82-year-old Josephine Slater, had a gun of her own and ordered him out of her Midland Avenue bar with just a few bucks in hand.

To make things even worse: Slater, a widowed grandmother of eight and great-grandmother of 15, said that about two hours later, the gunman came back to the bar to have a beer.

"I don't take anything from anybody," Slater, of Ohioville, said Thursday afternoon, seemingly proud and embarrassed at the same time about all the attention she's getting. "I'm not taking anything from these druggies. I try to run a decent place."

Midland police apparently had a suspect in mind for the robbery, but hadn't charged anyone as of Thursday evening. Midland Police Chief Ronald Bongivengo did not return a phone message seeking additional information.

Slater, who at 5-feet-2-inches tall stands chest high to the bar, said it's the first time in the 30 years she's owned the establishment that she's been robbed. One patron said that's because she runs a tight ship there.

"It's a good bar. It's the way it's supposed to be," Bill Murphy of Midland said. "People know how the bar is.

There's not much profanity, and you very seldom have a fight here. (Slater) tells it like it is, and she doesn't hold back."

She didn't hold back when the man, wearing dark clothing and a blue and white handkerchief covering his face, walked into the bar. Slater had been standing next to the bar on the far side from the entrance, and at first didn't realize what was happening.

"I thought, 'It ain't Halloween,' " said Slater, who bartends there.

But then the man displayed a sawed-off shotgun and demanded, "Give me everything you have in the register," and Slater explained there wasn't much in the register; there never is.

Slater opened the register and threw several dollar bills onto the bar, but the gunman said, "That's not enough." Slater said she threw down a couple more dollars, but had had enough herself.

Near the cash register at the bar, Slater had a small handgun under a napkin. She grabbed the pistol, pointed it at the gunman and said, "Get out of this place or I'll shoot you."

The man then left. Slater said she didn't think she gave the man more than $10.

The handful of patrons who were in the bar were stunned the incident had taken place, but also amazed how calm Slater had been.

Business partner Jim Emerick wasn't. "She's a hell of a person, but she don't put up with no ****," Emerick said. "She can be as nice as anything, but she can bite back, and bite back hard."

"I was just standing up for my rights," Slater said. About two hours later, Slater said, the man who police think robbed the bar walked back in with another man and had a beer.

She didn't put two and two together until well after the man's second trip, Slater said, when police told her who they thought the gunman was. She said the man had been in her bar many times, even one time bringing his children with him.

Slater said he never pointed the shotgun at her Wednesday night, and she thinks that's because "I think he knew how good I had treated him before, and he just wanted some money."

Slater said she has no intentions of retiring, even with Wednesday's incident. She's usually there at 8:30 a.m., until 1 p.m., bartending, making food for the lunch crowd and doing whatever else needs to be done.

Then she's home for a while, but back around 4 p.m. or so, staying until closing time unless business is slow, and then she'll cut out a bit early.

Josephine's is a bar where everybody knows the owner's name, stopping by in the morning with gossip about goings-on about town, and where there's singing and dancing - but in moderation, of course.

"You can have fun, but it's the right kind of fun," Slater said.

If that doesnt put you in a good mood, I dont know what will...