Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg store owner fires at masked robbers

Police investigate the armed robbery at John’s Variety, 208 Fourth St. N, on Saturday night.

CHRIS ZUPPA | Times

Police investigate the armed robbery at John’s Variety, 208 Fourth St. N, on Saturday night.

ST. PETERSBURG — Behind the extra-strength Tylenol, gum and Alka-Seltzer, John Silva kept a gun named Betsy.

So when two masked men barged into his store Saturday night demanding money at gunpoint, he ducked down and grabbed the .380-caliber handgun.

"By the time I had it cocked, they ran like jackrabbits," said Silva, 53. "They never had a chance to shoot me. I just reacted."

Silva stepped outside and fired three rounds at the two men. Police captured two men they suspect in the crime — one near Central Avenue and Fifth Street, the other taking a swim in Mirror Lake with a police dog in pursuit.

Detectives were interviewing the men late Saturday night to determine if they were the ones who tried to rob Silva. Detectives also wanted to know if they were behind two armed robberies last week.

On Monday and Wednesday, two stores in St. Petersburg were robbed at gunpoint by two masked men. The clerks, who are brothers, were shot even though they cooperated with the robbers. One was treated and released from the hospital; relatives on Friday said the other was improving at Bayfront Medical Center.

Silva was the only one to make it out of an armed robbery unharmed. Will he face charges for shooting?

"Probably not," said Lt. N. Patterson. The State Attorney's Office will review the case and make the final call.

• • •

Silva was perched behind the counter Saturday, as he has been for the four months since he opened the store. His friend Greg Damron, 33, was standing by the beer cooler in the squeezing-room-only convenience store.

Damron had stopped by about 10 minutes before the 8 p.m. closing to chat about the Gators, buy a sandwich and help stock beer.

Silva said he threw out his back as a Merchant Mariner in January. A former chef, he decided to try a more modest business enterprise than his last venture, a restaurant.

That's how he ended up the proud American owner of John's Variety at 208 Fourth St. N.

Just before closing, the two men burst in. Their faces were covered. One stood in the corner of the door like a lookout, the other leveled a .45-caliber gun at him.

They demanded cash and ordered Silva to get down.

He did, snatching his gun from a shelf behind the glass counter. He came right back up and pointed Betsy at them. The men fled. Silva chased them out the door, firing three shots.

"I don't give up easy," Silva said.

A nearby police officer on patrol heard the shots. Officers swarmed the blocks between the store and Mirror Lake.

The suspects' names were not released Saturday night. The man who ended up in the lake suffered minor injuries from a dog bite. He was treated at Edward White Hospital and released into police custody.

• • •

Two hours after using Betsy to protect his store, sitting behind the counter and chain-smoking Marlboro Reds, Silva credited his small-arms training as a Merchant Mariner for his cool response Saturday night.

For about seven years, he sailed around the world, collecting souvenirs like the two gold earrings hanging from his left lobe.

Since he opened John's Variety, he's kept the gun behind the counter. He can't remember how long he's had it — years, he says.

Will he make any security improvements?

"A bigger gun."

Will he consider closing?

Silva answered with a curse word. The clean version: "No."

Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

1. Star Deli, 2451 Fifth Ave. N

Narendra Patel, 53, was shot around 10:30 p.m. Monday. The gunman shot him three times after he emptied the register.

2. Suhani, 2539 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N.

Indravadan Patel, 46, was shot in the stomach at 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. A gunman shot Patel as he leaped over the counter to get to the register..

3. John's Variety, 208 Fourth St. N

Owner John Silva, 53, fired three shots at two masked men who tried to rob his store at 8 p.m. Saturday. Silva was not hurt.

To read about the previous robberies, go to links.tampabay.com.

St. Petersburg store owner fires at masked robbers 12/07/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 10, 2008 10:45pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle town

    Water

    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  2. Registered sexual predator charged in assault of woman in Brooksville

    Public Safety

    Times Staff Writer

    BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County deputies arrested a registered sexual predator Thursday after they say he attempted to assault a woman and fled into a storm drain.

    Lee Roy Rettley has been charged with attempted homicide, attempted sexual battery and home invasion robbery.
  3. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags

    Autos

    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]
  4. Former CEO of Winn-Dixie parent joining Hong Kong company

    News

    The former CEO of the Jacksonville-based parent of Winn-Dixie grocery stores, Ian McLeod, has landed a new leadership role in Hong Kong. He is joining the pan-Asian based Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. as group chief executive.

    Ian McLeod, who is stepping down as the CEO of the parent company of Winn-Dixie, has been hired by Dairy Farm International Holdings. 
[Photo courtesy of Southeastern Grocers]
  5. Eckerd Kids: Teens in group foster homes must be allowed to keep phones

    News

    TAMPA — For many teens still reeling from being taken into foster care, a cell phone is a lifeline, child advocates say.

    Eckerd Kids, the agency that runs child welfare in Tampa Bay, will in January require agencies that run group foster homes to allow children to use cell phones. Some group homes are concerned that children may use phones for unathorized contract with their parents or other adults or to post pictures of other foster children on social media