Chicago robbery suspect leaves his phone number


Tribune reporter

CHICAGO, Ill. — Robbers don't usually leave phone numbers behind, but on Monday, at a Northwest Side muffler shop, a man asked employees to give him a call when their boss came back to open a safe, an employee said Tuesday.

When the 18-year-old returned a few hours later, plainclothes Chicago police officers shot and wounded him the leg, police said. Ruben Zarate of the 5100 of West Schubert Avenue was charged Tuesday with attempted armed robbery and aggravated assault of a police officer, the Cook County state's attorney's office said.

The incident started about 8 a.m., when the masked man, armed with a revolver, came in to Velasquez Mufflers For Less at 2600 N. Laramie Ave. and began demanding money, said Jose Sida, 37, a mechanic.

Employees told him they had little money and couldn't open the safe, so the man left two phone numbers for them to call when the owner returned with the combination, Sida said.

"He said, 'You guys better call me because otherwise I'm going to come back to shoot you,'" Sida said.

Instead, an employee called Chicago police.

Officers dressed in plainclothes came to the shop and told employees to call the man, Sida said. The man returned about noon, wearing the same mask and black clothing and officers told the employees to get to the back of the shop, Sida said.

A police source said the teen pulled a gun from his hooded sweat shirt and at least one officer opened fire. Zarate's injury was not thought to be life-threatening, the source said.

Mark Payne, a spokesman for the Independent Police Review Authority, said the man was treated at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center for a gunshot wound. He said his agency was investigating the police-involved shooting but said that the inquiry would take six months to complete and that he could not release any details.

Sida said the teen's idea to leave his phone numbers was "stupid," but said employees were just following police instructions to call him back.

Employees now are worried the man's friends may return to get back at the shop employees for calling police.

"We followed police instructions, otherwise he would have come back for sure [to rob us]," Sida said.

Tribune reporter Angela Rozas contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 Chicago Tribune

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