“I would do it again,” says sharpshooter store owner

Charles Augusto, the 72 year old Harlem store owner who blew away four robbers with three shots from his pump action Remington shotgun that he hadn’t even test fired in 20 years, speaks to the New York Post.

Charles Augusto, lord of his domain,
protector of the innocent

August 15, 2009

“I’d do it again if I had to.”

Those were the first defiant words out of no-nonsense businessman Charles Augusto Jr.’s mouth yesterday as he came back to work less than 24 hours after opening fire with his trusty shotgun on four robbers—killing two of them.

The four men had picked the wrong shop—and the wrong man—to mess with. And they would have known it had they read the prophetic words from Dante’s “Divine Comedy” written in marker above the door: “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here.”

The thugs entered a world of hurt when they barged into Augusto’s Harlem restaurant-supply shop, Kaplan Bros. Blue Flame Corp., Thursday afternoon, pulling out a 9mm pistol and pistol-whipping an employee as they demanded cash.

“I told them there wasn’t any money. ‘Take your gun, put it in your pocket, and go home.’ They had a chance to leave,” Augusto said.

But they didn’t listen.

So Augusto, 72—known to most as “Gus”—channeled his inner Dirty Harry and pulled out the Remington shotgun he had hidden under his desk for 20 years. He opened fire three times, peppering all four men with buckshot.

“I did what I had to do,” he said. “It wasn’t my choice; it was their choice.”

The wounded men tried to run but didn’t make it far.

The man armed with the pistol, 29-year-old James Morgan—who had a long rap sheet with nine prior arrests—took the first shot directly to his face and made it only as far as the shop door before crumpling dead to the ground.

A second man, Raylin Footman, 21—who had a prior arrest for robbery and a relative who was a cop—made it across 125th Street before collapsing. He’d died by the time he was taken to a hospital.

The other two, Bernard Witherspoon and Shamel McCloud, both 21, were picked up by police nearby and taken to St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital. They are expected to survive. Both are to be arraigned today on robbery charges.

Sitting at his desk in the middle of his shop, marred by bloodstains and with bullet holes in the windows, Augusto said he felt bad about what happened.

“I had to shoot them. It was a tough thing to do,” he said. “I have to live with that. I’m sad that there are mothers and fathers who lost sons.”

But Augusto’s beaten employee—who would only give his name as J.B.—had little sympathy.

“S——went real bad for them, not for me,” he said. “I’m breathing. They dead.” [LA adds: J.B. is a young black man (he looks younger than 35) who wears a do-rag. His photo, which is in the print edition of the Post’s story, is not in the online version..]

The 35-year-old had nothing but praise for his boss.

“I know Gus is a good dude. He’s looked out for me since I was 19,” he said. “He saved my life, man.”

Augusto said: “I don’t feel like a hero. I would have felt like a hero if I’d talked that kid down and into going home.”

It wasn’t the first time lowlifes had tried to rob Augusto. After a robbery 20 years ago, he bought the pump-action shotgun and stuck it under his desk. Until Thursday, he’d never had to use it.

“I hadn’t touched it all this time. I didn’t even know if it would work,” he said. “I never fired it all this time.”

But he left it loaded, just in case.

“If every single citizen were allowed to hold a gun, there would be less carjackings and robberies,” he said.

Augusto’s gun was properly registered with police, and he does not face any charges, authorities said.

The Coast Guard vet, who was born in Yonkers and lives with his wife of 48 years in Irvington, Westchester County, said he had been selling commercial kitchen equipment for nearly 50 years and had no intention of quitting.

“What’s the worst they could do? Shoot me? I guess so. I’m not going to lay down and die. I’m just not going to,” he said.

J.B. said his boss likes to do things “the old-fashioned way.”

“Of course, he’s going to keep open,” he said.

Augusto and his employees tried to get back to business as usual yesterday, although it wasn’t easy. When a woman came to place a candle outside the shop, J.B. angrily kicked it across the pavement.

“Who’s this for?” he demanded of the startled woman. “For the guy who died? F——him!”

Additional reporting by Lachlan Cartwright, Shari Logan and Larry Celona


[end of Post article]

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

I am amazed that Augusto, apparently not having fired the shotgun or practiced with it or anything in the 20 years he had owned it, was able to handle it so well.

Also, if you’re wondering why none of the robbers fired back at Augusto, the answer is that apparently only James Morgan, the first one Augusto shot, was armed. This is from the the August 14 New York Times story, which we discussed yesterday: :

They strode into the restaurant supply store in Harlem shortly after 3 p.m. on Thursday, four young men intent on robbery, one with a Glock 9-millimeter pistol, the police said. The place may have looked like an easy mark, a high-cash business with an owner in his 70s, known as a gentle, soft-spoken man.

Of course Augusto had no way of knowing that only Morgan was armed.

Charles T. writes:

From the article:

“Augusto and his employees tried to get back to business as usual yesterday, although it wasn’t easy. When a woman came to place a candle outside the shop, J.B. angrily kicked it across the pavement.

“Who’s this for?” he demanded of the startled woman. “For the guy who died? F___ him!” “

J. B.—who also is black—and was saved by Charles Augusto’s actions—knows what the score is. Good for him. We need more anger like this directed not only aginst the criminals but also against those “useful idiots” who sympathize with them. And good for Mr. Augusto and his defiance towards the robbers.

I have no sympathy for the robbers who were attacking Augusto’s employees.

LA writes:

But here, from today’s New York Daily News, sent by Mike Berman, is more on J.B.’s actions after Augusto had shot the robbers:

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

The other—Raylin Footmon, a nephew of a cop in theNYPD’s 25th Precinct—made it across the street before collapsing on the sidewalk, police and witnesses said. He was later pronounced dead atSt. Luke’s Hospital.

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!’”

Viane said he overheard the 35-year-old employee—whom cops took away from the scene in handcuffs, but later released—thanking Augusto.

“Gus, you saved my life. You saved my life,” Viane quoted the worker as saying.

This is of course the classic black behavior over a fallen foe—kicking and stomping the dead or unconscious body.

Mike Berman writes:

LA: “Also, if you’re wondering why none of the robbers fired back at Augusto, the answer is that apparently only James Morgan, the first one Augusto shot, was armed.”

On both occasions that I had a gun put to my head, it happened the same way. Three blacks surrounded me but only one had a gun.

LA replies:

Also, let us remember that they had plastic handcuffs they were trying to use on the employees. That to me indicates a likely intent to murder them after they had held up the store..

Paul K. writes:

For those of us interested in guns and gunfights, especially gunfights in which the good guys win, the lack of detail and the sloppy attention to fact in news coverage is always frustrating. Journalists do not come from the class of Americans who are familiar with firearms, and they routinely make stupid blunders. For example, the Post story is the first I’ve seen that identifies the shotgun as a Remington—previously it had been identified as a Winchester. (Perhaps to reporters these are generic terms.) The reports that Augusto had a Winchester shotgun he’d purchased 20 or 30 years ago that had a pistol grip perplexed me, as Winchesters didn’t come with that feature in the 1980s. However, the Remington 870 did. I have attached a picture of the type of gun probably Augusto used (assuming the Post is correct).


As far as the employee, J.B., kicking the downed robber, I think you’re being a little harsh on him. A man held at gunpoint, terrified that he is in his last moment of life, has an “adrenaline dump,” a surge of the hormone epinephrine. When the tension is released, as it was when his assailant was killed, that adrenaline has to be released somehow, and it is often directed at the source of the terror.

LA replies:

This does look like the weapon a police officer is holding in the story in the print New York Post, it’s not online. It’s odd looking in the photo, it looks like a long dark tube rather than a typical rifle or shotgun.

Yes, being physically attacked and threatened like that and then suddenly being saved and seeing his attacker shot dead in front of him makes his excited behavior understandable. I thought the part where J.B. cursed the dead man and said, “You were going to kill me? Now you’re dead!”, was cool, like something out of Homer. I also like J.B.’s response the next day to the woman who lit a candle on the sidewalk in memory of the dead robbers: “‘Who’s this for?’ he demanded of the startled woman. ‘For the guy who died? F___ him!’ “. Still, very few white men would have dragged around the dead body kicking and stomping it, while it’s typical black behavior. And it’s typical of blacks when they’re attacking innocent people during a wilding as well as when they’re standing over the dead body of a violent criminal.

Also, J.B. is 35 and has worked for Augusto since he was 19, and the store apparently only has a couple of employees. So they must be fairly close.

Paul K. writes:

Your firing hand could be in front of your shoulder or by the side of your chest. At close range, it’s not all that hard to shoot that way. I’m attaching a scene from “Navy SEALs” that shows Charlie Sheen shooting a similar weapon.

I haven’t been able to find a picture of Augusto’s weapon so I can’t verify my guess.

LA replies:

I don’t get it, how would you aim? How would your eye be lined up with the barrel?

Also, a correction. I think the Times in its initial story said he bought it 30 years ago. The subsequent stories have said 20 years.

Another thing. None of the news accounts tells clearly the sequence of events, the sequence of the shots, where the men were standing in relation to Augusto as he fired. Some versions even make it sound as though he shot them as they were fleeing the store. Reporters today simply have no curiosity about what actually happened. Their curiosity does not extend beyond general, approximate statements, they have no desire for exactitude.

August 16

Paul K. replies:

You ask: “I don’t get it, how would you aim? How would your eye be lined up with the barrel?”

At short range it’s possible to “point shoot” a rifle or shotgun without using the sights, using the barrel as an indicator of direction. My impression is that the robbers were bunched together when Augusto started shooting, giving him a good-sized target. [LA replies: but if Morgan was beating J.B., they were standing next to each other. The news acounts suggest that Augusto was standing 20 to 30 feet away when he fired. Obviously at that distance “point-shoot” would not provide sufficient accuracy to avoid hitting J.B.]

As you point out, the news rarely paints a clear picture of what happened. I have seen articles on similar incidents from 50-to-75 years ago, and the newspaper would not only include copious detail, but would often have an overhead map showing the layout of the store and the placement and movement of the participants, such as you would chart a football play. [LA replies: yes, that’s the way it ought to be done. What happened to the job of newspapers, which is to tell people about things happening in the world?]

According to the articles, Augusto’s store has been robbed before and, for whatever reason, he did not shoot the perpetrators. However, when armed robbers pull out plastic handcuffs or duct tape, you have to assume they’re going to kill you.

There was this predictable commentary from friends and relatives of the robbers who were shot:

Morgan and Raylin Footmon of Manhattan were killed, police said.

Bernard Witherspoon of Manhattan and Shamel McCloud of Queens staggered outside the store and were nabbed by cops. They were treated at St.Luke’s Hospital and have been charged with robbery.

Morgan’s mother insisted Friday, “He was a good man and a wonderful son” who worked as a construction worker.

“He didn’t have to shoot him in the back,” said the mom, who declined to give her name. “It was a homicide. It was murder. It’s on his conscience.”

The brother of the other dead man said Footmon was “a decent man.”

“He was a good man. He was loved and he loved a lot of people,” said the man who refused to give his name.

At McCloud’s home, a family friend insisted he was no thug and said he was planning to attend college in the fall. He said he didn’t know how McCloud hooked up with the Harlem guys and then shut the door.

I’m afraid Augusto will be plagued with “wrongful death” civil suits for some time to come.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at August 15, 2009 07:45 AM | Send

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