Clerk wrestles Brooklyn robber, is shot in chest

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, December 8, 2004

By By AVA TABB Boone News Service
Few details have been released by law enforcement officials in the Monday robbery at a Brooklyn community store in which a man was shot, but store owner Janice Matthews spoke at length Tuesday about the events she witnessed.
According to Matthews, her store in Brooklyn was robbed between 4 and 4:30 p.m. by a white man who entered the store, threatened Gene Rabeurn, a store helper, and forced Matthews to hand over cash out of the register drawer.
Rabeurn, who wasn't working Monday afternoon, had just come to the store to visit with Matthews for a few hours.
"Usually, when I need any help out at the store he'll come in the afternoons for a couple of hours," Matthews said. "He usually just does some work when he has some time to spare."
The store had been busy all day as usual, according to Matthews.
"Me and Gene were just standing here talking when a young man walked in, he seemed to be in his early 20s," she said.
Once the man came inside of the store he said "I want your money," Matthews recalled. "He told Gene to step back and for me to give him the money or he'd shoot Gene."
Matthews said that she quickly gathered the money together and gave the man the money.
"He took approximately $700," she said.
Matthews then reached over the store counter and handed the robber the money with her left hand, and pushed the silent burglar alarm system with her right hand.
"He then took the money, backing up with his back toward the door and kept pointing the gun at Gene," Matthews said.
"Gene reached over toward the robber and knocked the gun out of his hand," she explained. "The man kept backing up, as if he was going to leave after he got the money."
Then Gene and the robber began to wrestle. They were standing up wrestling with one another. Gene was trying to get the gun away from the man, she added.
"Gene knocked the gun out of the man's hand and it fell on the floor," Matthews explained.
According to Matthews, both Gene and the robber tussled on the floor for a while before the robber managed to pick the gun up off of floor. After getting the gun back the robber shot Gene.
"I'm almost sure that the guy did not shoot him (Rabeurn) accidentally," Matthews said. "He didn't leave a big bullet hole but you could tell that he didn't shoot him accidentally."
According to Matthews, Gene was shot about an inch or two above his nipple in his chest. At the time, Rabeurn was wearing a thin flannel shirt with a red tee shirt underneath.
"I think that it was intentional," she said. "It was just too close to be accidental. If the gun had of went off it would not been as good of an aim as it was."
Once the robber broke away from Rabeurn, Matthews noticed that Gene was hurt. "I knew that Gene was hit but I couldn't tell how bad."
Matthews was told by police officers that the robber ran to his parked car by the old Robert McLendon Store. The robber jumped in the car, as three other men waited for him in the car. "I was told that this guy was the driver, he wasn't the passenger," Matthews said.
Scared, Matthews tried to use her store phone to call the police and for an ambulance, but she couldn't get a dial tone. She figured that since the security system was sounding, it must be the cause of the trouble using the phone.
"I ran across the street to get help," Matthews said. The only people home were the children of the house, she said.
"I ran across the street hollering and shouting that I had been robbed and that Gene had been shot," she said.
They phoned the local police department and emergency units to come for assistance.
Soon after officers with the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department and a nearby ambulance came.
Matthews said that when she ran across the street to phone for help, she remembers Rabeurn standing but by the time she had returned with 17-year-old boy from across the street, Rabeurn had moved to the back of the store and was laying on a sofa.
"We checked him (Rabeurn) and we could tell that he was bleeding bad. It was a small hole but I could tell that he was in pain," she said. "I was sure that it (the bullet) hadn't come out the other side."
Matthews, the boy and a girl tried their best to care for Gene as they waited for an ambulance and police to arrive at the store.
"He (Rabeurn) was in pain but fully alert," Matthews said. "He was talking."
Officers from Evergreen, Castleberry, River Falls and Andalusia all came to the scene. Shortly after, the ambulance transported Gene to Evergreen Hospital.
"They originally wanted to take him (Rabeurn) to the Evergreen hospital but I guess that because they couldn't treat a gun shot they just decided to take Gene to the Andalusia hospital," Matthews said.
The rescue units transported Rabeurn to Andalusia Regional Hospital in Andalusia. An Andalusia Regional Hospital spokesperson confirmed Rabeurn had been treated there.
Matthews said by the time she had finished talking with area police officers she knew Rabeurn was in surgery.
"After I left the store at around 8 p.m. I went up to the hospital and the doctors told us the he (Rabeurn) was in ICU (Intensive Care Unit), " she said.
It was business as usual for Matthews Tuesday. Many relatives and friends came by the store expressing concern for Matthews and to learn more on Rabeurn's condition.
"Everybody thought I was going to close today (Tuesday) but if I would have stayed at home I would have really been a basket case," she said. "There's no way that I could have closed down."
Matthews said that Rabeurn was a hard and yet friendly helper at the store. "That day I wished that he would have just stayed at home," she said. "He probably would have been better off being anywhere else at the time."
The Conecuh and Covington County Sheriff's Department and the Alabama Bureau of Investigations are investigating.