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Armed worker at Anytime Pizza foils robbery in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — As he crossed the darkened parking lot outside Anytime Pizza after closing shop at 3:15 a.m. Friday, manager Jason Bennett saw something move out of the corner of his eye.

A split-second later, he said, a man pressed a gun to the back of his co-worker Joshua Harris' head and demanded money.

Harris didn't think twice. He knocked the gun out of the man's hand and pinned him to the ground while Bennett, who has a concealed weapons permit, trained his .38 caliber revolver on the would-be robber until the police arrived.

The foiled robbery outside the pizza shop at 2216 34th St. S is the latest in a string of recent incidents where potential victims turned the tables on their assailants.

Raven Smith shot 17-year-old Anthony Lawrence Hauser four times Sunday with a .38 caliber weapon outside an Applebee's at 4700 Fourth St. N. Police said Hauser approached Smith and his girlfriend with a gun in a robbery attempt.

Almedin Muratovic, 25, sustained serious injuries Aug. 5 when he attempted to rob a woman at an ATM at 8250 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N, police said. The woman's boyfriend, Anthony Hall, fought with Muratovic for the gun; during the struggle, the weapon fired, hitting Muratovic.

St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz said he would hesitate to call the past week's incidents a trend.

"On average this happens a couple times a year — it is unusual to have so many close in proximity to each other," he said.

He said local law enforcement agencies "don't get into the business of advocating armed resistance to crime" because the response doesn't always work out in the victim's favor.

"We've seen three examples where things have gone right," Puetz said.

"There are probably examples where that hasn't worked out as well. Every situation is unique, and all we can say is that these particular cases, they've worked out."

Bennett, for his part, said he rarely leaves the house without a gun.

A former Merrill Lynch stockbroker, he left to pursue a dream of working on a fishing boat but lost his job when his boss sold his boat after the BP oil spill.

He's been working at Anytime Pizza for about six weeks, he said.

On Friday morning, Bennett said, he didn't think when he turned around to see Harris being held at gunpoint.

"I was able to pull my .38 out really quick," he said. "The guy started yelling, 'Please don't shoot me! The gun's not even real.' And I said, 'Well, mine is.' "

Police identified Bennett and Harris' assailant as 17-year-old Darius Maurice White of St. Petersburg. He had been carrying a pellet gun, and told police he had a baby daughter and needed money.

Then White became confrontational, telling the arresting officer that he didn't care whether he lived or died and that once he was released, the police would "see him on TV like the other killers," Puetz said.

White was charged with one count of felony robbery with a firearm. He is being held at the county's juvenile detention center, Puetz said.

Bennett said he merely "did what he was supposed to do" on Friday morning.

"I think by now people have sort of gotten sick of being pushed around by robbers and they're trying to do something back," he said.

Armed worker at Anytime Pizza foils robbery in St. Petersburg 08/12/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 12, 2011 10:52pm]
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