Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blue Flame Owner Kills Two in Harlem

The New York Daily News reports on the thwarted robbery in Harlem which left two would-be robbers dead and two wounded.

A shotgun-wielding owner of a Harlem restaurant-supply company blasted two robbers to death and wounded two others on Thursday when he caught them pistol-whipping his employee, police said.

Turning the tables on the brutish bandits, 72-year-old Charles (Gus) Augusto opened fire with a 12-gauge shotgun he kept handy for such occasions, cops and witnesses said.

Before reading any further I wondered how he shot the robbers without hitting his employee. If the guy was being pistol-whipped, he must have been within arm's length of the bad guy and a shotgun is not that accurate. Then the answer appeared.

The stickup crew - three 21-year-olds and a 29-year-old - came prepared with a pistol and plastic handcuffs. They tried to tie up two of Augusto's employees - a 35-year-old man and his 47-year-old female co-worker, said Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Browne.

"The male employee started to struggle, and then, as he did that, the perp with the gun struck him once in the head," Browne said.

"... That's when the owner opened fire with the shotgun."

As the bandits bolted from the store, Augusto squeezed off three blasts from the pistol-grip shotgun from 20 to 30 feet away from the pistol-whipped employee.

He was deadly accurate. The four bandits - who were all from Manhattan - were hit.

Two of the robbers were struck in the back. One, identified as James Morgan, dropped dead inside the store among the sparkling gas stoves, a pistol near his body.

It's unclear to me what happened with the first shot. From "20 to 30 feet away" I don't think he would have been able to hit the robber without endangering the employees. But once they turned and ran, it was possible. "Two of the robbers were struck in the back." How in the world can that be considered a legitimate shooting? Perhaps this gives us an inkling into the inflated numbers we always hear about these defensive shootings.

The police said the shotgun, which Charles Augusto bought 30 years ago after a robbery, may not have been legally owned, but that if he is "hit with a charge, it will be a minor one."

To me this is outrageous. Aren't there laws against people shooting other people in the back, regardless of what they were just doing? I understand the passions were running high, but that doesn't excuse shooting people down who are running away.

The furious employee who had been pistol-whipped ran out of the store and leaned over the mortally wounded Footmon, cursing at him, witnesses said.

The worker went back into the store and dragged Morgan's body onto the sidewalk, yelling at him and kicking him, witnesses said.

"He stood over the body cursing him and shaking him, even though he was dead," said Matthew Viane, 38, who lives in the neighborhood. "He was screaming at him and stomping him. "He [the employee] said, 'You were going to kill me? Now you're dead!'"

I can well imagine the shotgun-wielding owner, Mr. Augusto, had a similar reaction to being robbed and seeing his employee beaten. What I can't imagine is how the police can consider this a legitimate defensive shooting.

What's your opinion? I realize armed robbers run this risk when they do their thing, but aren't law-abiding citizens constrained to limit their defensive killings to only those cases in which lethal threat is operative?

Please leave a comment.


  1. Ever had anyone shoot at you from around their weak side? Or while simply twisted somewhat in order to get a sight picture on you? If you defend yourself while the BG takes such a stance, chances are you're going to hit them in the back. Besides, the very fact that they were inside the place of business, with guns, makes them a deadly threat, period. Nothing else required to defend yourself.

  2. A normally choked, full size shotgun is actually quite accurate. If you look at the ballistics, at close range the shot pattern only expands out an inch or so. It's not the "wide angle" scatter gun some people make it out to be.

    But just like the army doesn't quit shooting at a retreating enemy force, because if given the chance the enemy will turn and fight again, you don't necessarily disengage with an assailant just because they are moving away. Are they still armed? Be gentlemanly and quit shooting, and they may just duck down and start shooting again.

    The retreat of an army is a maneuver, not a sign that they should be left alone until they're where they want to get. The same with an assailant moving away from an act where they've already proven themselves to be life endangering and armed (how many guns did they have?).

    If a situation gets to the point where a lethal response is required, and you make that decision, you've got to follow through on it. The assailants chose the violent, life threatening enounter ... not the victim. A smarter thing for them to do would be to hit the ground and give up.

  3. MikeB,

    Once again your ignorance and reliance on movies for your firearm knowledge is on display.

    Try this site for a basic course in shotgun shells

    You'll note the article doesn't say if they were shooting back at the owner as they ran away or not.

    Once again you try to make the victim the criminal. Nearly ignoring the actions of the thugs who felt no compunction in pistol whipping a man.

    do you really think if they start off the robbery with a pistol whipping that they are going to just get the money and run?

    I find your compassion misplaced. The thugs are your victims and the victims are the bad guys....what does that say about your priorities and values?

  4. The condition of a lethal force encounter was created by the criminals when they entered the store with the intent to commit a crime with firearms. The old man did not escalate an otherwise lessor encounter into a lethal force event. He merely responded and was permitted to answer with lethal force.

    Basically it is a simple rule: if you don't want to get shot, in the back or otherwise, don't try to commit armed robbery.

    If the accounts of the story are accurate, the robbers failed in the victim selection portion of the criminal process.

  5. Totally agree. What would have happened if he didn't have that shotgun? I don't feel sorry for the thugs when someone actually fights back.

  6. Still waiting for you to post a DGU (not police action) that you feel is legitimate...


  7. To add onto what Little Steve said, you also need to take into account the type of shot being used.

    MikeB, you need to be aware that there are several types of shot. Everything from BBB a steel shot (red shell), to bird shot (green or black shells. You can even remove the shot, and replace it with rock salt.

  8. At least with the Oklahoma pharmacist they charged him with murder. That's an interesting comment on the progressive and advanced state of New York.

  9. You need to do a little research Mike. In the OK case, the pharmacist shot the perp in the head (although it was later discovered it was a grazing wound) He then chased the other perp out of the store only then did he come back in, step over the unconscious body, retrieve another gun, and then pump 5 more shots into the perps gut.

    These 2 incidents are as different as can be.

    Comparing them only makes you look worse than you already do.

  10. This is a justified shooting ALL AROUND. It is easy to imagine shooting at one perp who is facing you with a gun and still manage to hit two other perps in the back. The two who were hit in the back cannot expect, under the circumstances (geez!!!), to be considered if one of their "associates" is still menacing and threatening innocent people with a 9mm handgun. So, if you decide to commit an armed robbery with a gun, kidnapping and assault with 3 other guys, and you decide suddently that you want to forget it, try to separate yourself as much as possible from those that continue with their crime.

  11. marji, Thanks for your comment, which is certainly in alignment with the others.

    You may be right, of course, but can't you separate your judgment of this incident from the old "if you decide to commit an armed robbery with a gun" idea?

    I mean we're heard all about this being what the criminals ask for and this being one of the dangers of their line of work, but I'm talking about the shop owner. Isn't he bound by the determination of whether there's lethal threat or not? Isn't the option of responding lethally over as soon as the corresponding threat ends?

  12. "Isn't he bound by the determination of whether there's lethal threat or not?"

    I don't think there's any question about whether he was facing a lethal threat here.

  13. When your adrenalin is pumped up and your thought is to protect yourself and your people, thoughts of consequence and reaction don't really play in together.