On June 19 1999, my beloved Buffalo Sabres lost game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals. They lost the series 4 games to 2 and were victims of a goal in the 3rd overtime of game 6 that shouldn't have been allowed due to an in the crease violation. Had the Sabres found a way to win that game I would have been watching a 7th and decisive game that Tuesday the 22nd. Instead I was at a park in Penfield, New York getting robbed at loaded gunpoint.
Three of my friends ( Jim, Joe, and Josh) and I went to Linear Park about 9pm in the evening to hang out. We were there no longer then five minutes when a group of 4 guys came up to us pretending to want to fraternize. The introductory statement came in a bizarre request that I didn't understand-" Hey, you guys got any trees?" I found out later that trees was the cool way to ask if we had any marijuana cigarettes. One friend picked up on the lingo quickly and proclaimed we were pot free on this night.
Well the boys were not happy that we weren't able to provide them with any of that "Kind Bud." So the next words out one of their mouths were "Well let's see what you DO have." Two of them pulled out shotguns and stuck them in my friend Joe and Josh's faces. Me and my best friend Jim were lucky enough to not have a shotgun in our faces. For the moment.
My friend Joe was a tough kid, who didn't put up with any nonsense. He was the type that if he wasn't on your side you better run fast and never look back. His first reaction to the shotgun in his face was to swat it out of his face. This didn't please the ringleader of the group,Michael P. Sheheen. He was running the show and he had 2 other Einstein's in charge of the shotgun's. When Joe swatted it, Sheehan exhorted that this was " not a game" and told his cohort to "bust".
I was learning all kinds of new terms on this night. "Trees" meant weed,and apparently "bust" meant shoot the gun into the grass to show us it's loaded. When the kid tried to shoot the ground to show us the gun was packed, He couldn't get it to shoot. So Shaheen implored the other gun wielder to shoot his gun to show us it was loaded. Gunman number 2 failed just as miserably as gunman number one. Neither could figure out their guns. Apparently these hijackers didn't believe in dry runs.
At this time, I remember 2 thoughts came into my mind. One was that the gun's were indeed loaded. Two was that the guys holding them to our heads didn't know how to use them. I began to repent of my sins and prepared to see Jesus momentarily.
After a few minutes of trying to figure out how to use his loaded rifle on the grass,Shaheen told gunman number 2 to forget it and suggested that they just point them back at our heads so they could continue on with the robbery. This was the part where the gun now was pointed at my brain for the first time.
Joe had settled down a bit now that he saw that the guns were likely loaded and the gun toter's were more than likely idiots. So they proceeded to tell us to put all our money and belongings from our pocket's into one of their hat's. Between the four of us they got 48 bucks. When you count the overweight robber they left in the get away car due to his inability to run, there were five robbers. That's a whopping 9 dollars and 75 cents each. And to think, Mcdonald's was hiring.
Well in all actuality the thieves would have gotten an extra 20 bucks and keys to a new car had my friends been honest victims............
Not to be outdone by Joe swatting a loaded rifle out of his face to try to salvage his 17 bucks, Jim and Josh decided to be cute during the string of events.
While the young men were trying to figure out how to use their guns, Jim knew that his money was soon to be at risk. He was a minimum wage "Yo-Yo" operator at Sea Breeze who's friends (me) regularly stiffed him on gas money. He decided it would be a good idea to preserve the larger bills and only give the robbers the 1's and 5's. He took the lone 20 dollar bill out of his pocket and inconspicuously stuck his 20 dollar bill down his backside and placed it on top of his posterior.
Not to be outdone, my friend Josh Demille decided when the gunmen asked for everything in his pocket that he was not giving up his car keys. Now don't get me wrong, I understand this to some degree- It was a new car and was pretty nifty looking. So afterwards when we asked Josh what he would have done if they demanded his car keys he said, " I would have let us all get shot before I gave up the keys to my new car." Brilliant. When we asked him how his dead, lifeless corpse would drive his car he had no answers but still insisted on principle he would have never given up his car keys.
After the robber's got our 48 dollars they ran off and what do ya know, Joe went after them on foot. When later questioned about his decision to chase loaded gunmen over 17 dollars, he stated " It's the principle of it. Nobody robs me."
Joe chased them across town by foot, then hopped into a car that he stopped on 441 and told them to "Follow that car!",and finally by foot again. He swears that a bullet zoomed past his head at one point and the cops later did find a bullet in the a field. He actually called the cops as he chased the robbers and they ended up catching the thieves in a field in East Rochester.
The robbers all got sentenced to jail time. The ring leader got upwards of 20 years in prison. If not for Joe chasing them across town they probably would have gotten away with it because we couldn't see their faces in the dark and had no way of giving a proper identification.
Later in the night as we waited to be interviewed by police , three of us headed to Denny's to get some food. Where did we get the money to pay for it you ask? We had just been robbed and at the age of 18 didn't have credit cards. Well, Jim's refusal to abandon his 20 dollars paid dividends. Yes the backside 20 was put into circulation only hours after visiting Jim's inside back "pocket". That poor waitress never knew what hit her.
Life is funny. Had the Sabres not been cheated 3 nights before we wouldn't have been in that position. Had these robbers not robbed the one guy in Rochester that was willing to swat a gun out of his face and chase loaded gunmen across town on principle alone, they would have not ended up in jail.
I get flack from my 3 friends to this day for not doing anything exciting in that moment such as hiding a 20 dollar bill in my butt crack or swatting a loaded gun out of my face. I was the loser who stared at the ground in the face of a gun instead of trying to pull some against the grain theatric.
But thanks to my irreplaceable friends, at the end of the night I was lucky enough to have a ride home in a shiny new red car, with a full belly and a story to tell. And in the end isn't every situation worth it if it results in having a good story to tell? As long as you live to tell about it.