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Editor recalls his involvement in restaurant holdup in 1981
By Jim Baumann | Assistant City Editor
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Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:38 PM

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Originally published Jan. 10, 1993

It took me 11 years to realize how lucky I am to be alive.

When my wife called from work Saturday morning begging details on sketchy news reports of a massacre at the Palatine Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant, all I could envision was two co-workers and me lying dead in that walk-in cooler.

It was a foiled armed robbery in August 1981 that earned me - then a 19-year-old manager of an Arlington Heights Brown's Chicken - a short newspaper story and some notoriety among friends.

But to this day, I hadn't lost any sleep over the affair.

When it happened to me 11 years ago, I firmly believed violent crime did not occur in my world. But after 10 years in newspapers, I know different.

The restaurant I worked in had a relaxed atmosphere. Three or four teenage managers ran the store, for the most part, and most of the training we received was in gauging how much chicken to cook for the periodic rushes. Other than locking up the safe after counting the cash at night, little advice was imparted about security measures.

It never occurred to us working there to lock the back door until the receipts were counted and the place was cleaned up for the night. Because of the summer heat, we routinely kept the door open to cool off.

Shortly after closing one Friday night and with the cash nearly counted, two masked men entered the open back door. They approached me and one pressed the barrel of a loaded .38-caliber gun to my forehead without uttering a word. Thinking it must be a prank, I slapped the pistol away from my face, took a step forward and yelled at them to "Get the hell out."

My aplomb so shocked the pair that after a moment of looking at each other in silence, they ran.

The next day, orders were posted to keep the back door locked unless a delivery was being made.

I was quoted in the newspaper a few days later, calling my actions "a pretty stupid move." I quipped that my mother probably wouldn't sleep well that night.

Now it's my turn.