A man was robbed at gunpoint on Bold St., half a block from Locke.
By Ryan McGreal
Published September 28, 2009
They looked and acted like a couple of stock thugs from Central Casting.
The shorter guy wore a bandanna over his face so you couldn't see any features other than his eyes, but he did most of the talking, and he had the gun. The taller guy didn't say much, and his features were hidden beneath a bulky hoodie.
Kevin * was walking home from a friend's house a week ago last Wednesday, around quarter to midnight. He was walking west on Bold St. toward Locke. He could see the light of the Starbuck's at Locke and Bold. He could hear the voices of pedestrians strolling along Locke.
Between him and the lighted street, the two thugs approached. Kevin didn't think anything of it until they split up. The bigger guy veered out onto the road and came down the middle like one tine of a pair of pincers.
That was when the red flags started going up for Kevin, but the idea that he might be accosted still seemed faintly ridiculous. I'm less than a block from Locke Street, he thought to himself. What could possibly happen?
Plenty, it turns out.
In response to the pattern the two thugs were following, Kevin veered outside their net. The smaller guy veered out to match him. He veered in, and the other followed suit again. Kevin started to consider his options: Do I run? Do I aim for the shorter guy and try to hit him? Do I try to race between them?
By this time he was thinking: One of these guys is either going to jump me or hit me on the side of the head.
They did neither. By this time Kevin was maybe half a block from the inviting lights and reassuring noises of Locke Street. With only five feet or so between him and the two men, they sprang into action.
The shorter guy jumped forward into his path, almost touching noses. He pulled a gun out of his pants, held it in front of Kevin's face, and then pressed it against his stomach. The taller guy cut in and took a position just behind Kevin's left shoulder.
Once the reality of the gun sank in, a cascade of frustrated thoughts fell over him over the entire exchange that followed: How bad is this going to be? I wonder what a bullet feels like. He felt like he was having an out-of-body experience, like he could look down on the scenario from a position overhead.
Inside his body, he stood like a statue during the entire ordeal, which he estimates lasted about five minutes in total.
In stereotypical form, the shorter guy did most of the talking. "Give me your knapsack." Kevin took off his knapsack and handed it over. "How much cash you got? Give me your cash," ordered the man with the gun.
Kevin's heart sank. He had only about five dollars on him. Here it comes, he thought. They'll shoot me because it's not enough.
He pulled out his wallet and handed it over. "I've only got five dollars," he said.
The two men frisked him and found a lump in his left pocket. "What's that?" they asked. He pulled out his work cell phone and gave it over.
Another lump, this time in has back pocket, turned out to be a pack of Colt cigars. He handed it across.
That's when things got awkward. A dead silence played out, the three men standing together on a side street less than half a block from bright, noisy Locke. No one spoke for a long time.
Someone's going to come by any minute, thought Kevin in the silence. Someone will open a window, call the police, they'll come any minute. But no one came by, and no windows opened. The silence just rolled along.
This is it, thought Kevin. Am I going to get pistol whipped? Shot and left for dead? What will it feel like? He wondered. Will it pass through any vital organs or will I get lucky?
The man with the gun withdrew it so that it was no longer pressed into Kevin's stomach.
For some reason - and later on he couldn't explain why - Kevin spoke up without thinking. "Hey, can I have one of those Colts? I really need one right now."
Smart or foolish, it seemed to break the impasse. "No," said the big guy, and the two men abruptly walked away to the east.
Could it really be over? Five minutes with a gun pressed against you feels like an eternity.
Kevin took off toward Locke Street and didn't look back until he reached the corner. The thugs were at Pearl St. and continuing eastward.
He supposed he should call the police right away, but all he could think about was getting home - to his wife and children who, a few minutes earlier, he didn't know if he would ever see again.
He headed south and walked as fast as he could toward home. As he put it later, "My shoes barely touched the sidewalk."On the way he felt a twinge of guilt as he watched a woman walk by with her dog, followed by a couple holding hands. He wanted to yell at them, "Everyone, get home!" but he couldn't. He wanted - needed - to get away as quickly as possible. He also speculated that he would frighten them badly cutting across the street and raving about men with guns. He called the police after getting home and they arrived very quickly. The officers were helpful and professional. They advised him that it was not likely that they would be able to catch his assailants, but nor were they likely to return to his house, even though they had his personal information.
The officers told him, "This kind of element, they're not going to come to your house. They want a quick fix, then they'll move on to someone else."
They were looking for quick cash, presumably to buy drugs. Anything they couldn't use for that immediate end would be cast aside. Later, Kevin and his co-workers would check to see if the cell phone had been used. True to the officers' assessment, it hadn't.
The following days were an emotional roller coaster. After 24 hours of shock, he finally broke down when his daughter visited home and hugged him. From there he see-sawed: between feeling that the world is rotten and crappy and a conscious thankfulness that the good people astronomically outweigh the bad; between appreciating the small beauties in life and flying off the handle at minor irritations (he's normally a very easy-going guy).
What he wants people to understand is that this kind of thing can happen to anyone. "We live in a bubble in our neighbourhood. We think all the crackheads are in the east end, but you have to be cautious anywhere you live."
All in all, this crime looks like an unfortunate case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. According to the city's crime statistics, Ward 1 is among the safest places to live in the city. Robberies for Ward 1 are low and falling:
Report available here: http://raisethehammer.org/data/city_crime_stats.asp based on crime data published on Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie's website.
Sergeant Jo-Ann Savoie, the community crime manager for Ward 1, confirmed the best ways to be safe when walking at night:
If confronted: "Don't fight. Give up your items. Remember that your safety is paramount." Sgt Savoie added, "Contact police soonest and if possible give as much physical description as possible."
Ironically, Kevin was walking toward Locke St. instead of heading south on Pearl to his traditional shortcut through the HAAA Park precisely because of the warning to stay on well-lit streets. On this particular night he was also going home early from his weekly get-together.
The wrong place at the wrong time.