NEW PORT RICHEY — Snehal Patel describes himself as a man who is calm in a crisis. He kept calm Monday afternoon, he said, even as a man with a gun jumped over Patel's pharmacy counter.
"You have to be calm," said Patel, 37, who has owned Money Saver Pharmacy in East Richey Square on Massachusetts Avenue for five years. "That's when you think clearly."
As the robber told a female technician to get on the ground about 2:30 p.m., shouted for oxycodone and waved his .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun, this is what Patel said drummed through his mind:
"He's not walking out my door with any drugs."
Patel waited for an opportunity and found it when the robber was upset with Patel's small supply of oxycodone and lowered the gun to raid other drugs.
"I grabbed the muzzle," Patel said.
Patel kept the gun pointed at the ground as he and the robber struggled.
"He tried to bite me," Patel said.
The gun fired into the floor, the discharge burning Patel's palm. Patel said he managed to get the magazine of bullets out of the gun. The robber dropped the backpack full of pills and fled.
Authorities identified the robber as Ian Patrick McCain, 35. Police say they found him minutes after the robbery trying to hide in a garage on Congress Street. Residents there said a 15-year-old girl coming home from school found McCain inside the open garage, with his feet up and reading an issue of ESPN The Magazine. They said McCain offered her $500 to let him hide there. One of the residents left the house, saw police searching the area and flagged down an officer, according to the New Port Richey Police Department. The ditched gun was found nearby, authorities said.
McCain, of 7866 Cherry Tree Lane in Port Richey, was arrested and charged with robbery with a deadly weapon and burglary of an occupied building. He was being held Tuesday at the Pasco County jail in lieu of $160,000.
On Tuesday, Patel still seemed calm.
"Long ago I learned in my life that things are going to happen," he said. "No matter what profession you're in, danger is lurking every step of the way."
He said one time, a masked man walked into his pharmacy with a gun. Patel said he told him he had 10 seconds to leave — or, he could stay and have a shootout with Patel, in which case both of them would likely die.
"He was sane enough to walk out the door," Patel said.
He said he doesn't worry about the danger. He knows he could have been shot. But Patel feels if he allows a robber to leave victorious, it will make his store a target for others. He wants would-be thieves to know pharmacists are armed.
"When you walk into a pharmacy, you won't know what you'll get into," he warned.
He has no regrets.
"If I had to do it, I'd do it again," he said.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this story. Erin Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6229.