Lessons in Surviving a Hold Up
By Robert Waggener, The Associated Press
DAYTON, Wyo. (AP) -- Glenn "Weegie" Sheeley said he has been around hunting firearms all his life, but guns took on a whole new meaning earlier this week when he suddenly found himself looking down the barrel of a 12-gauge shotgun.
Sheeley, who owns the Corner Grocery store on Main Street, was robbed at gunpoint. Police later arrested convicted murderer Ervin James Brown, who escaped last week from a prison in Michigan.
"Just as I opened the till to hand him all the money, one of my regular customers pulled up. The gunman said, `I don't want any bloodshed. I don't want anyone hurt here. You get him taken care of and out of here,"' Sheeley said.
Sheeley said he took care of his regular customer and then once again faced the short-barreled shotgun.
"As the customer left, the gunman asked me, `Where's the safe?' I told him I didn't know because I just started working here," said Sheeley, who purchased the Corner Grocery about six months ago.
The gunman then asked to see the surveillance tapes.
"I told him all those cameras were not functioning, even though they were. But he was adamant about wanting to see what was in the rewinders.
"I finally opened a rewinder for him and showed him nothing was in it. He then asked why I had all these cameras. I told him, `They must be for show,"' Sheeley recalled of the tense moments.
After being handed money out of the till, the suspect "looked at me and said, `I don't want any high-speed chases and I don't want any gunbattles today.' He asked me not to call anyone for 30 minutes, and then he went out the door. As he was leaving he turned around and said, `This is nothing personal, these are just desperate times," Sheeley said.
"As soon as he got in his car I tried to get a license plate number, but it was so cold I couldn't see the plate because of the exhaust fumes. But I got a good description of the car," Sheeley said.
The store owner immediately called 911.
"I didn't get nervous until I picked up the phone to call 911. That's when the adrenaline hit me. I suddenly realized I was in the right spot at the wrong time," Sheeley said.
Sheeley said he didn't realize his life was in serious danger until after calling 911. Apparently, Sheeley said, he was reacting to the robbery through instinct.
"At the time I wasn't afraid for my life. One good thing about it is I had 10 years of banking experience and had a lot of robbery training. I wanted to get him out of the store as soon as I could and give him whatever he asked for," Sheeley said.
That all changed when the customer walked into the store.
"My regular customer went and got his milk and doughnuts and came up toward the register. I slid over to the other register and rang him up," Sheeley said.
He noted that the gunman, who was dressed in a black trench coat, tried to hide the shotgun. However, the regular customer must have noticed the gun.
"He looked at me like he had some concern," Sheeley said of the customer. "I gave him change, and he left."
Sheeley said he believes the suspect's car was about out of gas because he pumped 17 gallons into it.
"I think he got off the interstate at Ranchester looking for gas, and everything was closed in Ranchester so he headed to Dayton," Sheeley said.
When the suspect arrived at the Corner Grocery, Sheeley's wife, Joey, was there to get a beverage.
"She was my first customer yesterday. She came in right at 6 a.m.," Sheeley said.
Sheeley said his wife saw a strange car sitting in the parking lot, and apparently the suspect waited for her to leave before driving to a pump.
"He pulled down to the gas pumps and started pumping fuel," said Sheeley, who thought at the time it was odd that a complete stranger was in Dayton at 6 in the morning during the middle of winter.
"I authorized the fuel and then went to the back of the store to start biscuits and gravy that we serve each morning. We make them fresh every day," Sheeley said.
"I came back out because I heard the pump turn over and noticed the car was gone. `Oh gosh, I thought, we had a drive-off.' As I was walking toward the gas console, I noticed he had backed in by the ice chest.
"When he finally got into the store, he came through the door with a shotgun pointed right at me. When you grow up in this country you see guns all the time, but I thought, `I am looking right down the barrel of a shotgun,"' Sheeley said.
The gunman was in the store several minutes before he got what he wanted and drove off, Sheeley said.
"My regular customer who left the store was just driving into Ranchester when he called. He said the strange car just went around him going about 120 miles per hour. I asked him if he could call 911 to help," Sheeley said.
The store owner said he locked the doors to preserve evidence, called in clerks to help secure the area, and then began preparing the surveillance tapes for Sheridan County sheriff's deputies.
Sheeley said he was shocked to learn the alleged robber was a convicted murderer who escaped from prison.
"After hearing he killed a guy in Michigan for eight bucks, I thought, `He had nothing to lose,"' Sheeley said.