Fortunately for the owner of Nim’s, Monday’s encounter didn’t end that way.
The owner—a South Korean immigrant who asked that his name be withheld—was still visibly shaken the next afternoon as he replayed a store surveillance video of the encounter. (Click on the play arrow to the above video to watch highlights.) He was bruised, too.
Nim’s has been a retail constant for decades on an otherwise transient block of stores. The current owner said his aunt opened it in 1976. He took it over in 2001.
Running the shop has meant contending with robbers. In 2012 alone the store got hit three times, the owner said.
Then came Monday’s attempt.
A hooded man carrying a backpack entered the store at 4:26 p.m. A female clerk, who’s in the first trimester of a pregnancy, was working the counter.
The man brandished what looked like a gun.
The owner was a few steps away on the internet in a back room. He heard the clerk scream. He grabbed some bills—maybe $50 or $100 in all—and rushed out front.
The robber pointed his weapon at the owner. He said he wanted money. The owner slapped the bill on the counter near the robber as the female clerk ran to the back room, dialed 911, and hid. The police dispatcher could heard yelling in the background before the line went dead.
“We have a rule” for clerks, the owner said. “Somebody is coming in [armed], you run away.”
The robber continued brandishing the weapon as he followed the owner around the area behind the counter. The owner, crouching, tried to get away. At 4:28 p.m. he managed to press an alarm button, twice, to alert the police.
The robber demanded more money. The owner opened the cash register and dumped its contents into the robber’s backpack.
The owner grabbed a baton that he had on hand and struck the robber. The robber grabbed the baton from him. The two started wrestling. The robber kept the apparent gun in one hand, the baton in the other. He beat the owner on the head. The two tumbled to the ground, crashing a display case.
“He’s so strong. He’s bigger than me,” the owner later recalled. “I’m scared.”
The owner couldn’t dislodge the gun out of the robber’s hand. He did manage to get on top of the robber for a while and land some punches.
The interlocked pair rolled into the back room, crashing more glass, a Crystal Rock water cooler, a Canon copier. The robber bit the owner’s left thumb.
At 4:36 p.m., according to the video, three officers came through the front door. Guns drawn, they checked around, then headed to the commotion in the back room.
They pulled the combatants apart. At first both were arrested, but the police quickly removed the cuffs from the owner when they realized he was the victim, who was bleeding. Officer Scott Durkin was the lead officer on the arrest.
Later on at the police station the attacker, who’s 19, allegedly confessed to the crime. He was charged with first-degree robbery, second-degree larceny, illegal use of a facsimile firearm, second-degree assault, and second-degree assault with a weapon. The weapon turned out to be a pellet gun.
The alleged robber remains behind bars on a $350,000 bond. His next court date is Jan. 30.
Meanwhile, in addition to his damaged property, the storeowner suffered head wounds and a chipped glasses lens. He went to the hospital for care, then was released. Tuesday afternoon his eye was still hurting him. His thumb had a band-aid. He was still worried, he said—about how he’ll pay for the medical bills, the broken display case and copier and water cooler. Most of all, he was still frightened by the encounter.
The pregnant clerk decided not to come back to the job, the man said. A new clerk, a University of New Haven student who hails from China, was working the counter Tuesday. She was all smiles.
Murders may be down, but we really need to get a grip on the violent crime in New Haven. I’m not sure where to begin, but this is getting out of hand.
posted by: PH on January 22, 2013 4:27pm
He should sue his attacker so that every penny the criminal happens to earn in prison goes towards paying for the damage he caused.
posted by: fastdriver on January 22, 2013 5:24pm
I cannot believe the police handcuffed the owner of the jewelry store! After watching the video, did they have ANY doubts as to who was the thug and who was the good guy? Just look at how the two were dressed! OMG!
posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on January 22, 2013 8:42pm
I doubt they took the time to watch the video before cuffing both of them. It sounds as if they did that just to take control of the situation, and then rectified it right away.
posted by: fastdriver on January 22, 2013 9:59pm
Gretchen Pritchard -
I MEANT after I watched the video. How could the police have thought that they guy that was dressed like a NINJA, would be the store owner? I don’t think it would take a rocket scientist to figure it out. Too bad the jewelry store owner didn’t have a BASEBALL BAT instead of a baton! At least he held his ground to this thug until the police arrived.
posted by: LESGTINCT on January 23, 2013 8:03am
This poor defenseless shop owner had to risk his life because he was defenseless. Next time get a gun and properly defend your life and business.
posted by: ElmJackCity on January 23, 2013 8:17am
First off, I am glad the owner kicked his ass. I realize he took a significant risk but, we have to celebrate the triumph of a man who decided not to be victimized.
Problem: According to this report it took 8-10 minutes from contact with 911 until PD arrived. This is downtown New Haven on lower Chapel.
This is why I believe in my 2nd Amendment right to bear arms.
Say what you will but, you call the guys with guns anyway. They just may get there a bit late to save you.
posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on January 23, 2013 9:37am
One more thing, glad to see so many New Haven police officers “walking the beat” as advertised. Perhaps actually “walking the beat” in the entire city would help with this BS.
posted by: jhonn_m on January 23, 2013 10:31am
A nearly 10-minute response time from the police on a main street in the center of downtown?? How is that even possible?!
posted by: SaveOurCity on January 23, 2013 11:58am
glad to see no one seriously hurt….
sad to see poor response by NHPD….
I hope that the owner seriously considers legally obtaining a firearm and safety training. The injuries and damage could have been avoided.
posted by: Ex-NHPD on January 23, 2013 4:35pm
Here is some insight for all those castigating the NHPD for their “slow response” to this incident.
If you are going to go by the video timeline, it was 8 minutes, not 8-10 or 10 minutes.
When a homeowner or business owner presses their Panic or Hold-up Alarm, it DOES NOT GO TO NHPD OR 911. The signal goes to whatever alarm company installed and monitors their alarm system. Just because your system was installed by Whatever Alarm System in New Haven, that does not mean that the monitoring center is local. That activation could be monitored by a call center anywhere in the USA, if not overseas. That monitoring center may receive many, many activations at any given time, from many, many different customers. Often, they will call the alarm holder prior to calling local Law Enforcement. Then, they will call and the info is received at the New Haven Communications Center, typed in, and dispatched.
The alarm customer is at the mercy of the quality and efficiency of the monitoring center.
When I used to walk a beat, I often found broken windows or unsecured doors at buildings on the beat, which had not been reported by an alarm company. I have been on a scene upwards of 10-15 minutes at a broken window before the call came into NHPD for the break. And that was when I did not hear the glass break. When finding an open door and setting off the alarm, there were times that similar delays occurred before the alarm company notified NHPD.
The real test of the NHPD response is how long it took officers to arrive after they were dispatched. You could also look at how long it took to be dispatched, from the time the alarm company notified NHPD.
How about the NHI check it out and see how long it took from dispatch time to arrival time. I predict it was pretty quick.
@ Ex-NHPD: I may have mis-read the story, but it sounded as if the female employee had *already* called the NHPD prior to the owner pressing the alarm button.
Bass, can you weigh in on that? That is what I thought you wrote, but I may have misunderstood. If that is the case, it was definitely 10 minutes or more from initial call to response.
[Bass: Yes, the female employee called 911, but there was no indication it was before the jeweler pushed the button. I don’t believe that more than 1 minute had elapsed between the time she initially fled and the jeweler made it to the button. A lot was happening at once. I’m also going to weigh in with a personal opinion here: I don’t think the cops took a long time. I think they got there fast and handled the situation well.]
posted by: fastdriver on January 23, 2013 5:07pm
What you claim makes a lot of sense now especially considering the quality of people that these large companies hire these days. They were probably on Facebook or Tweeting instead of paying attention to their alarm boards!
That said, is there ANY alarm company/system where the alarm goes directly to 911 or the local police station? I’m thinking influential people/movie stars that have alarm systems in their private homes. Would their calls follow the same route as this jewelry store? I would bet no, but I don’t know.
posted by: ElmJackCity on January 23, 2013 6:17pm
My comment was two-fold, and it was not intended to be a criticism purely at the timeliness of a patrol officer’s response post receipt of the service call.
1) Eight minutes is a long time to fend off an intruder whether it be in your business or your home. Thus, less dependence on someone coming to your immediate help, and more reliance on self-defense. Take a class. Consider a firearm. I believe that the strain on our municipal resources, combined with a distinct job culture issue, has removed the possibility of instant gratification rescue. I think that many people believe that police magically appear the instant they are called and that is far from the truth for many reasons.
Watching the video is painful in itself. At any moment during that episode the shop-owner could have easily lost his life, should the weapon been an actual firearm, or if the tide changed in the attacker’s favor.
2) If eight minutes is too long for response in a city with a distinct criminal presence, then perhaps the problem is systemic relative to dispatch? I am sure everyone would agree that the time between point of contact with a criminal presence and the actual dispatch of a service call can seem severe when in need of police assistance. I am posing these questions because they are broad-ranging with the potential for actionable solutions.
posted by: anonymous on January 23, 2013 8:08pm
“I hope that the owner seriously considers legally obtaining a firearm and safety training”
I don’t. Statistically speaking if the owner had been carrying a firearm, his chance of being murdered during the robbery would have been about five times higher, according to national studies of injury risk during robbery.
Ex-NHPD: Sorry if I appeared to blame the officers—after many awful experiences with dispatch, that is where I think we can have improvements. If the call wasn’t before the alarm, the response time makes sense.
Anonymous: I’m with you. This story currently ends with a few bruises and an arrest. If the owner had a gun, it may have ended with a trip to the morgue—for either man. I’m glad that the owner didn’t use a gun on the robber. I’m also glad that the owner is alive and well.
posted by: SaveOurCity on January 24, 2013 11:10am
RE: Statistically speaking if the owner had been carrying a firearm, his chance of being murdered during the robbery would have been about five times higher, according to national studies….
I’m sure one can find statistics to back up one’s position whether they are for or against 2nd Amendment rights but as Mark Twain popularized, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.
Better to consider the reality of situations. If the owner was carrying a firearm and was properly trained, who would have been better off in this situation, he or the thug?
What did the towns of Sandy Hook and Monroe decide after last months tragedy? Armed guards at school;
“<bold>Better to consider the reality of situations.</bold> If the owner was carrying a firearm and was properly trained, who would have been better off in this situation, he or the thug?”
True enough at the micro level, but anecdotes are bad bedrocks on which to rest policy decisions. For every store owner who might have been able to defend himself competently with a gun, or for every mother who wards off an intruder with a pistol, there’s an accidental shooting,a mistaken-identity shooting, or an unjustified ‘self-defense’ shooting (i.e. Trayvon Martin).
Statistics, even ‘damned statistics’, are much more useful.