“We just got robbed. I’m not kidding Bart! We just got robbed!” Kendall was standing in the corner behind the counter, white-faced and trembling with fear. The tone of her voice, the look on her face and the open cash register drawer removed all doubt. I had only been in the back room for two minutes but in that short time something terrible had happened.
It was 1978 and I had been working at the Baskin Robbins store on 19th street for about 6 months, which meant I was one of the more experienced staff members. It was 5:30 in the afternoon, the slow time of the day during the dinner hour and before the evening rush. It was a time for restocking cones and cups and for swapping out near empty tubs of ice creams with new ones. I was heading for the back to get a tub from the freezer when I saw him enter. Dark hair, dark jacket and a bandana. I didn’t think anything of him, he was just another guy. I went through the door to the storeroom as he approached the counter.
When I came out he was gone, and so was the money. When Kendall told me what had happened my first (and in retrospect, stupid) instinct was to chase after him. The fact that he had a gun and I had an ice cream scooper did not register in my mind. As I ran out the door I saw a car pull away. It had been parked just out of view of the door, about 20 feet away at the curb to the walkway of the center in front of the bar next door. It was a dark blue car about 10 years old. It had a black California license plate with gold numbers, “965 HTM.”
I ran back inside and called the police. This was pre “911” so I dialed the operator. “I need the police we just got robbed!” I was immediately connected to a police dispatcher. A squad car appeared outside within seconds. The dispatcher took the description and plate number of the car and told me to hang up and speak with the officer on scene.
Kendall told us the full story, how he had pulled the gun and told her to give him all the money in the register. She had nervously filled a brown bag with what was in the register and handed it over. He had turned and walked out. The whole event had taken only 1-2 minutes. Kendall had barely finished her story when the news came in over the police radio. They had found him! I had, amazingly, correctly identified the make and age of the car and there were officers in pursuit. The chase was on, the robber was racing down Newport Boulevard.
It was over in a matter of minutes when the thief crashed into another vehicle. He suffered no serious injuries but the woman he hit, a mother of three young children, was not so fortunate. She died at the scene. On the front seat of the dark blue Chevy the police found a toy gun and a paper bag with 57 dollars in it.
57 Dollars. Three children were forever motherless over 57 dollars. It is hard to process the tragedy of such a selfish and stupid act. How could such a thing happen?
The next few weeks saw a flurry of investigational activity. There were a police interviews at work and at the police station, a photo lineup, and I was called to testify at a preliminary hearing. I was not told about the ultimate resolution of the case but I assume there was a guilty plea before trial as I wasn’t called back to testify again. My life went on.
I think about the robbery every so often. Each time I do it is the 57 dollars and the death of the mother that are most troubling. So much was lost over so little. I think about this every time I hear of a robbery. I wonder how someone could become so thoughtless, so heartless, so evil. At what point does the life of another human being become worth so little?
Life needs to be defended. It needs to be fought for.
There is nothing more valuable on this planet than human life. The Old Testament truth that we are created “in the image of God”, created with the ability to love, to reason, and to choose, is a truth we need to pass on to our children. This truth is the basis for valuing life, every life. Each and every person on this planet is of infinite worth, far more than 57 dollars.
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