Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Rhode Island: City liquor store owner outwits armed robber who threatens to kill him

Woonsocket, Rhode Island

From the Woonsocket Call of July 1, 2009
City liquor store owner outwits armed robber who threatens to kill him

The quick-thinking owner of a Social District package store turned the tables on a man who had a knife to his throat and threatened to kill him for money Tuesday, police said.

After a violent struggle with the robber, the owner of U-Save Liquors at 399 Clinton St. convinced him that he was too tired to fight anymore and he was giving up. In an attempt to put the robber at ease, John Quinn then offered him the keys to the store and invited him to lock the front doors before he looted the store.

As 20-year-old Kevin Mortimer was busy fumbling with the keys, however, Quinn, 56, slipped into his office and emerged with a Walther PPK 9mm handgun, the police said. With the firearm trained on Mortimer, Quinn reached for a phone with his free hand to call the police, at which point Mortimer ran from the store.

Moments later, Patrolmen Michael Flood and Sean Carpenter captured Mortimer on a footpath that hugs the Blackstone River, just behind the store. Mortimer was arrested after a wrestling match with his arresting officers that ended only after he was in handcuffs and leg irons, said Detective Lt. Eugene Jalette.

“They put shackles on him, and that’s not something that normally happens unless a person is really kicking,” said Jalette. “He was quite combative.”

Mortimer, of 59 Salisbury St., was charged with first-degree robbery, two counts of assaulting the police and resisting arrest. Mortimer was also booked for obstructing because he allegedly refused to identify himself after he was taken into custody. This may be Mortimer’s first arrest in Rhode Island, but Jalette said he has a lengthy criminal record in Massachusetts, where he used to live.

The run-in at U-Save began at 10:28 p.m., when Mortimer entered the store and asked Quinn where he kept the vodka, said Jalette. Quinn was showing him the brands he had in stock when Mortimer suddenly came up behind him, wrapped one arm around his waist and held a knife to his throat with the other. The owner struggled with Mortimer, causing the armed man to cut himself on the forearm with his own knife.

At that point, Quinn broke away from Mortimer, letting the robber think he had gotten the better of him, said Jalette. Mortimer allegedly told him, “I don’t want to kill you but I need the money for my rent,” said Jalette.

After the owner gave Mortimer the keys to the store, the would-be robber began attempting to lock the front door. The owner used the distraction to step into the office to get his Walther PPK, the same pocket-size handgun that British spy novelist Ian Fleming made the signature weapon of his famous fictional character, James Bond. Fleming’s influence is said to have been a major factor in the popularity of the distinctive-looking weapon, which has been around since the 1930s.

Mortimer did not require medical treatment for what was described as a small cut on his arm. After being held overnight at police headquarters, Mortimer was arraigned in District Court Wednesday and ordered held without bail at the Adult Correctional Institutions pending a review hearing on July 15, according to court records.

Quinn told The Call later that he’s been in business 13 years and he’s never been the target of a holdup before. He said Mortimer repeatedly threatened to kill him during the course of the attempted robbery because he was desperate for money, and Quinn took the threats seriously.

“What would you think if somebody has a knife to your throat and says he’s sorry, but he needs the money?” Quinn said. “I figured it was going to be me or him, and it wasn’t going to be me.”

But Quinn said he used more brains than brawn to overpower the younger man. When he broke off the struggle, Quinn convinced Mortimer that he couldn’t fight any longer because he had heart trouble and needed to a drink. Mortimer was so desperate to be in control of the situation that he actually fetched him a cup of coffee from the brew-station in the store, Quinn said.

“It’s not always the more powerful or the armed one who wins,” said Quinn. “It’s the smart one.”

This is the first armed citizen story out of Rhode Island that the Civilian Gun Defense Blog has documented.

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