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Thread: Deadly Stand In Harlem

  1. #1
    State Researcher HankT's Avatar
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    The armed perps made a big mistake--they underestimated the threat of the old man.

    Well, he wasn't just an old man. He was an old man with a firearm. And he knew how to use it to defend himself and the lives of his employees.

    Although a hero with a gun, Augusto doesn't seem to be feeling too great about it.

    August 15, 2009

    Back at Work After a Deadly Stand in Harlem

    Charles Augusto Jr. was more than busy when he started working at Kaplan Brothers Blue Flame in 1960 for $75 a week, shuttling between the kitchens of hotels like the Plaza and the sprawling apartments of Astors and Rockefellers to repair their stoves.

    But lately, restaurants have been closing more than opening. On Thursday, Mr. Augusto sold only one item, a deep fryer, and by 3 p.m. he and his two workers were settling into a sluggish afternoon in Harlem.

    Four men broke the silence by pushing their way past the scrawled sign that states “Abandon all hope ye who enter here.” Ignoring Mr. Augusto’s pleas that there was no money around — the one customer had paid by check — the men, one armed with a gun, began to struggle with one of his workers and apparently wrote off Mr. Augusto as an old man not worth their trouble.

    Left alone, he grabbed a Winchester pump-action shotgun he had kept around since the store was robbed 20 years ago. He was not sure it would even work. It worked, three times.

    Seconds later, two of the robbers were dead, the other two seriously hurt, and Mr. Augusto was being hailed as a neighborhood hero.

    He is one of the thousands of workers and residents who stayed put in Harlem through the neighborhood’s most troubled days, its sputtering revival, and the latest downturn. Just two years ago, Mr. Augusto, who became an owner of the company in 1978, and his partner turned down offers to sell their two buildings on West 125th Street, including the one that houses the store, for $9 million, an amount it would be unlikely to fetch today.

    But Mr. Augusto, who is 72, was back at the store on Friday, in his navy blue work clothes. “I’ve been here 50 years,” he said. “I don’t really want to go nowhere. What do I do then?” he asked. “I’m not going to let these hoodlums run me out of here.”

    The news of the shootings alarmed many of the business owners, workers and residents who believed that Harlem had left its feeling of constant danger behind. A Citarella gourmet supermarket now does business a block away from Blue Flame. In 2007, Steven Buckwald, owner of Surroundings Flowers and Events, moved his commercial operations from 79th Street to a building around the corner from Mr. Augusto’s store because he thought the neighborhood had become safer. On Friday, he found himself handing over surveillance footage to the police.

    “It was just developing this safe, changed image,” he said. “I do hope that it’s a very temporary setback.”

    Adrienne Knox, a 55-year-old school lunch helper, echoed the feeling of many residents — not to mention hundreds of comments on local blogs and newspaper Web sites — when she said that Mr. Augusto’s actions might give some criminals pause.

    “Even before the recession, there’s always been altercations in Harlem,” she said. “But what he did out there, nobody’s going to come around messing with nobody around here.”

    While Mr. Augusto, who was born in Yonkers to parents of Dutch, Irish, English and Italian descent, is by no means troubled financially, he described himself as a person whose life had dealt him his share of blows. About 12 years ago, his son committed suicide. Mr. Augusto called his years as a young man in the Coast Guard “the only time I had any fun in my whole life.” He said he has not been able to pay himself since January.

    Mr. Augusto bought out half of the store in 1978 and kept its name — the actual Kaplan brothers had not owned it for years — to make sure he retained its longtime customers. Twenty years ago, the store was robbed at gunpoint, so his partner, Michael Gluck, got a license for a shotgun and had a gate added in front of the shop entrance. There were other events: a burglar broke in and burned through the safe, the store’s truck was hijacked, an employee was held up on the way to the bank. But Mr. Augusto stayed because he thought the neighborhood was improving.

    “It’s safer than it used to be during the ’60s,” he said. “Then, there were riots.”

    He never made the business look desirable to robbers. The untiled floors are littered with cigarette butts. Some of the drawers of Mr. Augusto’s wooden desk are broken. The shelves are filled with dust-covered stove parts like burners, knobs, springs and deep fryers. He keeps a can of Raid and a fly swatter close.

    Neighbors said Mr. Augusto was known to give young men temporary work loading and unloading trucks. About 17 years ago, he hired a teenager named J. B. Now 35, J. B., who declined to give his full name, earns $25 an hour, though because business is slow, neighbors said, he spends much of his time sitting in front of the shop reading the Bible.

    On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Augusto said, the four men set upon J. B. after Mr. Augusto told them there was nothing worth stealing. J. B., too, came to work on Friday, fielding calls from friends and from his sister, who asked if he would still move her to Virginia this weekend.

    “If it weren’t for Gus — ” said J. B. He paused, then alluded to one of the men who had attacked him. “Better him with a tag on his toe than my mother planning a funeral for me.”

    People from the neighborhood walked by Friday to study the blood and the bullet holes in the glass of the front door. Mr. Augusto received calls from a niece, a Garland Stove company executive and a stranger saying the city should have a parade for him. His wife also called from their home in Irvington, N.Y., in Westchester County, still worried about him.

    The news of the shooting did not bring him any new business.

    On Friday, the police identified the two men who died as James Morgan, 29, and Raylin Footmon, 21, both of East Harlem. Bernard Witherspoon, 22, of East Harlem, and Shamel McCloud, 21, of East Elmhurst, Queens, were in stable condition at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center. The police said they would be charged with robbery.

    Despite all the congratulations, Mr. Augusto said he wished that the men had left when he urged them to and that he would not have had to use the shotgun.

    “I know the pain these people must feel,” he said, referring to the families of the two who were killed. “I don’t know what feels worse, now or when my only son died.”

  2. #2
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    I'm glad Mr Augusto and his employees made it through the ordeal safely. I hope we don't hear any future stories of retaliation. Unfortunately that happens all too often in cases like this.

    I am very happy to see that the city and citizens are recognizing him as a hero in this situation! I get so fed up when I read more and more stories of self defense that end in the good guys getting sued and prosecuted for simply defendingtheir lives against horrible people

    Sad to hear of the deaths but I'm glad the BGs got what they deserved

  3. #3
    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    I too would feel horrible if I had to take another human's life, but at least I (hopefully) would be alive to deal with the issues.
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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