What do you think about when you're being mugged?
If you're Colorado Springs resident Claire Shepard you might have recalled how a few hours earlier you'd thought, "Dammit, I'm noticeable in an orange sweater; maybe I should wear something more subtle."
In fact, Shepard did draw the kind of attention no one wants to receive when the 48-year-old artist and sculptor stopped at the Southgate Walgreens on Tuesday, Sept. 30.
The chase is on
As she approached the Walgreens entrance at 11 a.m., she encountered a spine-chilling glare from two big Hispanic males. Just outside the store, in swift, silent unison they snatched her purse with a fluid motion that she likened to "a gust of wind."
"It was so intense that I almost couldn't believe it and went into this mini denial," Shepard said.
Her denial didn't last long.
"Call police, call police," was the first and second thing that came out of Shepard's mouth as she pursued her assailants as fast as her clunky clogs would carry her.
"The debate was whether to stop and kick 'em off in the street or to keep running," Shepard recalled.
She decided to keep chasing the men because "I didn't want to spend the next six weeks on the phone with MasterCard." And she soon found she wasn't alone. A middle-aged woman out for a jog enlisted in the chase, which had careened to the adjacent strip of shops that flank Walgreens to the east of the mall, off Nevada Avenue in southern Colorado Springs.
But that wasn't all. "All of a sudden," Shepard said, "there was a guy behind me to my left running and I thought 'who's he running from?' Then I realized he was running to help me. ... He was totally focused."
The speedy Samaritan, Randall Brown, could not be reached for comment.
Continuing her sprint through the alley, Shepard then encountered Giusippe Monastero, owner of Palermos Restaurant.
"Did he roll you?" Monastero asked.
When Shepard said yes, Monastero hopped the handrail on the alleyway stoop of his restaurant and joined the chase.
Backed into a corner
Meanwhile, one of the muggers found his way into the grounds of All Aluminum Recycling located next to the shopping center on Cheyenne Road. There, he was promptly chased out by manager Jeffrey Morin.
Ferreted out of his hiding spot, the assailant found himself backed into a corner by Monastero, who motioned into his back pocket indicating that he had a gun.
"I got a gun, I'll shoot ya," Shepard recalls Monastero saying.
"I was standing in back of him saying, 'he'll shoot you, he'll do it!' "
The cornered assailant was taken into police custody. The other was apprehended shortly thereafter, thanks to the heads-up thinking of Monastero's wife, who took down the license plate of the car that one of the muggers drove away in. Both assailants were minors, and under state law police cannot release their identities.
"There's a lot of good citizens out there," said responding officer Brian Babin. "They saw something, they called us and their reactions made the difference."
Shepard likes to think of the morning's event as a minor miracle, the sudden and unorchestrated convergence of citizens who acted quickly and bravely in defense of a total stranger.
Not only was her purse returned with all its original content, but she even got back the dollar-off Oil of Olay coupon that had brought her to Walgreens in the first place.
-- John Dicker