A Lawrence County gun store owner confronted by an armed robber yesterday grabbed his own gun and foiled the attempt, sending the suspect running out of the shop.
"I always planned for this," said Donald Pieri, 60, owner of Triangle Gun Shop in Perry Township. "You have to think it out."
State police charged Jeffrey J. Ierino, 32, of Wampum, Lawrence County, with attempted robbery and other offenses after tracking him to his house.
Mr. Pieri was sitting behind the counter talking with PennDOT consultant Paul Butera, 57, about a road project outside the shop when the masked gunman walked in at 11:24 a.m.
The suspect waved a semiautomatic in their faces, then tossed a bag to Mr. Pieri and told him to fill it with pistols.
At first, Mr. Pieri thought it was a prank.
"I actually had a smirk on my face," he said today at his shop.
But when he realized it wasn't a joke, he quickly dived behind a door leading into the back room and retrieved his own pistol from his office desk.
He said the sudden move startled the gunman enough so that he couldn't get off a shot. Instead, the masked man ran away.
State police thought yesterday that he jumped into a car driven by an accomplice, but today they think Mr. Ierino was acting alone and drove the getaway car himself.
Troopers were looking today for the gun outside the shop, where they think Mr. Ierino threw it as he ran.
He proved fairly easy to catch. Mr. Pieri said many people in the area had reported seeing a suspicious car driving around the shop in the morning, and at least two witnesses wrote down the license plate.
Within a couple of hours, troopers tracked Mr. Ierino to his house, but they said he ran off when they showed up.
They caught him about a block away at a bar.
Mr. Ierino, who has a long criminal record, is charged with attempted robbery, attempted theft, illegal possession of a gun, carrying a gun without a license, terroristic threats and simple assault.
He was being held in the Lawrence County Jail on a $25,000 bond.