EDGEWATER — The two women who walked into Bestcom Wireless on North Broadway about 5 p.m. Monday seemed just like any other customers looking to buy a new phone at the family-owned business.
They perused the store's cases. They asked questions about iPhones and phone carriers. One of the women said she had about $600 to spend on a new smartphone for her sister's 14th birthday.
"It seemed normal to me," said Amir Kishta, the store's manager.
But as Kishta pulled a Samsung Galaxy S smartphone from the case, the woman wearing red pants sprayed him point-blank with a can of pepper spray.
"All of a sudden she was spraying me with mace — all over, man," Kishta said Tuesday inside the shop his brother owns. "It's crazy."
But the pepper spray, which police later told him was 10 times more potent than the stuff Chicago police officers carry, hardly slowed him down.
Surveillance camera footage shows the 24-year-old almost immediately run after the two women, who were fleeing with four phones worth about $1,800.
Nearly blind — and with only "adrenaline" keeping him going, he said — Kishta bolts out of the store, knocking over a display case on the way out the front door.
A tan van was parked outside. The women jumped in.
Kishta said he was about to jump in after them, but stopped when he saw two men inside the van.
Although he was struggling to breathe and to open his eyes, he was still able to make out a license plate number as the van sped off.
He called 911, and an officer nearby was able to pull over and arrest four suspects about 5:45 p.m. in the 1500 block of West Pratt Boulevard, said Officer Michael Sullivan, a Chicago Police Department spokesman.
Deandre Loveless, 20, of the 1500 block of West Jonquil Terrace; Ellen Phillips, 29, of the 7700 block of North Marshfield Avenue; and Alleysia Ariel, 21, from the first block of North Mayfield Avenue, were charged with armed robbery, police said.
Kyle Samuels, 23, of Evanston, also was charged with armed robbery and found to be in violation of parole, police said.
Police said all merchandise taken from the store was recovered and returned.
Eyes still burning hours later, Kishta said, he was able to identify the suspects.
"Everything happened so quick, and it was all perfect," Kishta said of both his and the police response. "Everybody was at the right place at the right time."
Kishta may not have been the only shopkeeper allegedly robbed by the group. A police source said there had been reports of similar robberies at nearby cellphone stores in recent weeks, including a shop on Devon Avenue.
Kishta said police told him that.
"It was multiple stores they hit," he said. "And I was the final store — because I was the only one who ran and did something."
Kishta's brother, K.C. Kishta, 31, said he was at home in Oak Lawn when his store was robbed.
He said Tuesday that it was the second time someone had tried to rob the store since it opened 10 years ago at 6147 N. Broadway.
About two years ago, he said, he chased down and tackled a man on Granville Avenue who took a phone without paying for it.
Although happy to have the phones returned, K.C. Kishta said he wished he could have been at his brother's side Monday to help.
"My heart dropped to see my younger brother in trouble," he said. "It broke my heart."
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