Barry Paddock, Alison Gendar and Corky Siemaszko, New York Daily News, August 15, 2009
The Harlem businessman who blasted a gang of robbers with a shotgun as they terrorized his staff said Friday, “I had no choice.”
“They were probably going to work us all over,” Charles (Gus) Augusto told the Daily News. “You know me–I’m not going to take anything lying down.”
Augusto, 72, insisted he told the gunman who’d just pistol-whipped his clerk to clear out, but the bandit just wouldn’t listen.
“I’m sad I couldn’t talk him out of it,” he said. “I’m sad there’s mothers and fathers with no sons today.”
Augusto said he has some idea what they must be feeling because his son, Charles, killed himself with a gun a dozen years ago, and “the pain never goes away.”
“I don’t feel like a hero,” he added. “I would have felt like a hero if I could have talked that kid into going home.”
The tragedy began at 3 p.m. Thursday when four thieves burst into the Blue Flame, a restaurant-supply business on W.125th St. near Amsterdam Ave.
“I’m sitting here minding my own business and they come in,” [Augusto] said. “Next thing I look, and there’s a kid standing there with a gun pointed at [secretary Dorothy Hunt] wanting to know where the cash was.”
Police identified the gunman as James Morgan, 29, of Manhattan, a convicted drug dealer. The other robbers–all of them 21 years old–were unarmed.
While one suspect beat Hall, Morgan waved his gun at Augusto and Hunt and demanded, “Where’s the cash?”
“I asked him, ‘Why don’t you just put your gun down and go home, and we’ll forget about this thing? Someone’s gonna get hurt. There’s no money–you’re gonna get in trouble. You’re wasting your time.'”
Augusto said for a second he thought he’d gotten through to him. But then another robber told Morgan to ignore Augusto and resumed pounding Hall.
It was then that Augusto reached for the shotgun he had bought two decades ago–and hoped he’d never have to use.
“They were beating up on JB, so I shot them,” Augusto said.
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.
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 the Blue Flame, Hall, 35, said the foursome got what they deserved–and had nothing but praise for his brave boss.