The Coin Dealer Who Couldn’t Be Robbed
We were coin dealers. We dealt in precious metals: gold, silver, bullion and rare US coins. My son-in-law and I ran a coin exchange. Our biggest competitor was a man named Ron Miller, who ran the Coin Gallery a few avenues over. Ron had a beautiful layout, located on the second floor of a building downtown, in one of the many small towns incorporated to create the fifth largest city in our state.
More impressive than ours, Ron’s store sported barred plate glass windows, a bulletproof glass door, which could be opened only from the inside by pressing a buzzer, and he carried a huge inventory of cash on hand, making him the target of many would-be robbers.
Our stores were miles apart and we weren’t exactly friends, but we did occasionally exchange items, so we pretty well knew a lot about each other. One day while there, Ron told me about his guns. He had pistols and shotguns stashed everywhere and a semi-automatic in his waistband.
“A criminal wouldn’t have a chance,” he said. “If they did get inside and tried to rob me, I would have the drop on them in the blink of an eye.” He explained how he looked his customers over through the glass door and told me of his policy of letting in only one person at a time, selectively choosing whom he admitted.
Ron rehearsed for the inevitable robbery every morning. He would grab a gun at random and point it at an imaginary culprit in a mock scenario of a deadly heist, thus training his reflexes to respond if his emotions overtook common sense, if he lost his rationale.
As he showed me around his premises, he gloated openly. “They wouldn’t have a chance. Not a chance.” To which I agreed heartily. “Ron,” I said, “You’ve got the most fail-safe setup I have ever seen.” He smiled with pride. “You betcha!”
But a month later, he was robbed and shot dead. How was this possible? Where did he fail?
In the years after, the details were hazy, but in talking to Gary Burton, who runs Burton’s Rare Coins, who knew Ron Miller, and phoned a distributor, who also knew Ron very well, they confirmed the following details:
One sunny day, a boy appeared at Ron’s store and stood looking in through the glass door. He certainly didn’t look dangerous, so Ron let him in. The youth headed towards a showcase and asked to see a stamp album.
All went well. The kid made a purchase and left. But several weeks later, something unusual happened. Three males appeared outside with the boy. Ron shook his head slowly. He couldn’t let in more than one customer at a time.
But after a few minutes, he reconsidered. Recognizing the boy as a former customer, he figured the others were probably friends, so he pushed the buzzer and let them in. Right away, they headed for the stamp showcase, where the boy asked to see an album in the bottom of the display case.
When Ron bent down on one knee to retrieve the album, he lost eye contact with the males. In a split second, the tall adult pulled a gun, leaned over the counter and shot Ron in the head. As he lay bleeding, the robbers scooped up as much loot as they could carry and made a hasty exit.
According to Burton, Ron would have lived if he could have been taken to the hospital, but no one knew he had been shot. The robbers were caught and the boy is serving time, while the adult is serving a life sentence for murder.
There is a maxim here: All the guns in the world will not protect you if you break the rules.
Two Girls, A Gun & A Cop
Janice was the 19-year-old daughter of my good friend. She had been living with her friend, BJ, a couple of states over, for over a year when they decided to drive west to visit BJ’s two boys who had been living with her parents.
BJ, whose real name was never known, owned a motorcycle and Janice wanted to buy one so they could ride tandem. As they searched the want ads, they saw a motorcycle and went to look at it. But when they haggled over price, they struck up a conversation with the seller and told him of their plan.
The man looked at them sternly, warning them of the dangers of two women traveling across country and sleeping in rest stops, but BJ said, “Oh, we’re not worried. I carry a .357 under my jacket. If anyone bothers us, they’ll get a big surprise.”
The seller frowned. “Look,” he said. “I’m an off-duty sheriff’s deputy and I’ve got some advice for you. It’s against the law to carry a concealed weapon. If you’re going to carry a gun, for god’s sake, carry it out in the open.”
BJ took the man’s advice seriously. For over a thousand miles she wore the big Ruger single-action with a 6-inch barrel out in plain sight, stopping at gas stations and restaurants without any problems, but when they pulled in to a truck stop on the state border, parked, and started walking toward the café, they saw a Highway Patrol vehicle swing in and park behind them.
Janice said to BJ, “See that?” BJ replied, “Don’t look. They’re not after us.”
Upon entering the restaurant, they chose to sit at the far end of the counter where they would be the least conspicuous, and they hunkered down, attempting to make themselves invisible.
As the minutes ticked by, some kid came over, peering intently at BJ’s weapon. “Is that a real gun,” he asked. But BJ, not wanting attention, tried to shoo him away while he persisted. “Are you a cop?” he said, standing his ground.
Now, everyone was looking at them. Both Janice and BJ stared down at the counter, frozen in fear, unaware of the Highway Patrolman’s approach. Coming up behind her, looking down, with his mouth close to her ear, he spoke in a coarse whisper, “Don’t move, m’am. I’m going to take your pistol.”
As the café patrons watched with apprehension, the patrolman took the .357 from its holster, again warning BJ not to make any rapid movements, and marched the girls outside.
Standing beside their bikes, holding the gun, the officer began questioning the girls. He wanted to see their driver’s licenses, bike registration, and he wanted to inspect their saddle bags for contraband. But most of all, he was curious about the gun.
Janice, a sweet, innocent-looking girl who was good at manipulating men, sobbed out her story. They were not hippies, but responsible adults; they were on their way to her parent’s house, and BJ carried the gun for protection. She even told of the deputy sheriff who had advised them to carry the gun in plain sight.
“I believe you,” the officer said. “You got some bad advice, but I don’t think you are criminals. I’m not going to cite you, but I’m going to remove the cylinder and cartridges and lock it all in your saddle bag.” But as he disassembled the weapon, he warned BJ. “When you get down the road, don’t even think about putting the gun together again, because if you are stopped and found with a loaded gun a second time, you will be jailed immediately.”
The girls arrived without further mishap.