A Nurse with a Gun

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Foiled Robbery in NOLA

The 22-year-old wounded suspect died at the scene after taking a pounding from debris thrown onto him by people in the bar, while his companion disappeared on foot, according to witnesses and a bar videotape. Police haven’t yet released the dead man’s name, but said he is from New Orleans.

Would-be robber killed by guard in Mid-City bar
Patrons pelt dying suspect with debris
Sunday, December 31, 2006
By Karen Turni Bazile

Bar owner Frank Barrera acted quickly and quietly when he spotted two men pulling out pistols as they entered his newly opened Mid-City business Saturday about 2 a.m. Pulling an armed security guard behind a wall next to the bar, Barrera waited a few moments as one of the men grabbed a patron and dragged him behind the bar, and moved toward Barrera’s wife, Maria, who had been counting money near the cash register. As the bar customer wriggled free, the guard fired a shot into the robber’s torso, dropping him on the spot.

“That’s the best thing we had to do. I had seen the guys walking in, and that was good. So we got ready,” said Barrera, who opened his La Finca Home Plate Inn at 542 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway six weeks ago. “It’s very hard to explain because it was so fast and happened in maybe 30 or 40 seconds. It’s very scary.” He said his wife of 19 years “almost got shot in the head.”

The 22-year-old wounded suspect died at the scene after taking a pounding from debris thrown onto him by people in the bar, while his companion disappeared on foot, according to witnesses and a bar videotape. Police haven’t yet released the dead man’s name, but said he is from New Orleans. Police and business people in some New Orleans neighborhoods have struggled in recent weeks to cope with armed bar robberies. It wasn’t known if suspects involved in Saturday’s incident will be linked to other incidents that have terrorized patrons and bartenders.

Barrera, 54, said he had operated a nearby restaurant for 30 years before Katrina and worked for months to open the new business, but knew he would need a guard and security cameras to protect his customers in a post-Katrina climate. According to witness and the New Orleans Police Department, the gunman behind the bar was shot once in the left torso by a former criminal sheriff’s deputy working a security detail. The single shot apparently hit a major artery, said officer Sabrina Richardson, police spokeswoman. The Police Department classified the shooting as a justifiable homicide and filed no charges against the guard, but Richardson said the district attorney’s office will review the incident. The department wouldn’t immediately identify the guard.

Beyond official police statements, a security camera tape captured the drama. It shows two armed gunmen charging the bar, which had several customers at the time, and grabbing two patrons as hostages as they tried to get to money that Maria Barrera was counting. As a male hostage broke free behind the bar, the guard reached out from a spot near a corner of the bar and shot the gunman, who had grabbed Maria Barrera. The other gunman fled when the shot was fired. Then patrons took matters into their own hands until police arrived.

The customer who had been held hostage behind the bar grabbed the robber’s gun on the floor as the wounded man reached for it. Still clutching the bag of money, Maria Barrera maneuvered around the would-be robber while two other female bartenders, who had hid under the bar, scooted out with her. Patrons threw various objects at the gunmen as one fled and the other remained on the floor, struggling to get up. Bottles and at least one bar stool were hurled at the prostrate man, and the tape shows one patron climbing over the bar and stripping off his shirt before someone stopped him.

In the tape, the security guard took the suspect’s gun away from the patron who had grabbed it, and the customer reclaimed his stool at the bar and immediately took a swig from his beer. With Spanish and English music blaring from the juke box during service to a lunch crowd Saturday, about 10 hours after the incident, Barrera and others at the split-level restaurant spoke openly about their post-Katrina crime worries.

“I was very lucky,” said Maria Barrera, who added she didn’t know how she managed to move quickly as she faced armed men. “I was looking at two guns,” she said.

Miguel Lara, taken hostage briefly in front of the bar by the gunman who would escape, wasn’t able to free himself. “He was crazy,” Lara said. “He had a gun in my face.”

Others encouraged the Barreras to add security to discourage other bandits. “This needs to be a wake-up call to the thieves that the people are not going to tolerate their thuggery and are going to arm themselves and protect themselves,” said Ronnie Waguespack Jr., an amusement machine operator and longtime friend of Barrera who came to empty the juke box Saturday.

Barrera was pleased to hear promises from police officers who responded to the attempted robbery, who said they would be more vigilant. The bar owner said he wants his customers to feel safe now that he has worked hard to renovate a building that had been badly flooded. Barrera said he has no regrets and rested easily, although for a brief time, before returning to the restaurant Saturday morning. “I slept well,” he said. “We saved my wife. We saved all the other ladies and other customers.”

Police described the second suspect as 5 feet 8 inches tall and 160 pounds, wearing blue denim jeans and a white shirt. Homicide Detective Barret Morton is in charge of the investigation. He can be reached at (504) 658-5300.

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Anonymous anguslincoln said...

Holy crap! Is it any wonder tha NO is having a hard time attracting any tourism? They can't even get their own to return to that "city of chocolate" now turned rancid with out of control crime. Thanks to the armed citizens willing to take on personal civic resposibilities that are trying to discourage the criminal element. I wonder how many residents have a ccw permit.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Keith Walker said...

Was this in New Orleans? If it was in Texas and a patron shot the robber, he would have been arrested for having a handgun in a bar.

10:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As much as I can appreciate fighting back, it seems to me that the security guard could have easily shot the woman behind the counter by mistake (ie, "what's behind your target").

8:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellant vidoe Xavier. It shows what can go right in a horrible situation like that. You can tell that the security officer had some level of train. Whether that be prior law enforcement, military, or from the company that he worked for. He behave from what I can tell professionally. He maintained control of the situation very well. But over all a good training video for all to watch and learn from.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've watched this video a couple of times...and all I can think is...good, they got another one.
What would have happened if the patrons had to call "911"?
Would this scene have ended differently? Would more people have lost their lives? This is another fine example of what our forefathers wanted for us...the ability to protect ourselves.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous Kristopher said...

It wasn't a patron ... it was an armed security guard.

Different situation.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Markay said...

This is textbook example of what the proper training and carry can prevent in time of crisis. The guard has my kudos for the quick thinking, the very accurate 15 foot shot, and saving the lives of god knows how many.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous mike100 said...

I would like to know what caliber the robber was dropped with..he was a big 'un.

9:55 PM  

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