ANDERSONVILLE — Police say a Walgreens employee risked his life and played the role of hero when he helped officers subdue a man who had captured an officer’s handgun and allegedly attempted to shoot two police dead in the pharmacy’s parking lot on Valentine's Day.
Raymond Robinson, a shift leader at the store at 5440 N. Clark St., rushed into the middle of a bloody fight between two officers and the man who had just fired a gunshot at them, police said. Robinson had gone for the handgun itself and given the dazed officers a critical window to disarm their attacker and put him down, according to the department.
The fight started outside the store about 8 p.m. after police attempted to arrest Thomas Thompson, 33, of Rogers Park, on a shoplifting charge. Thompson allegedly left the store with more than $150 of vitamins. He was ordered held on $500,000 bail last week.
Robinson, 48, who stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 130 pounds, recalled the fracas in an interview, teling DNAinfo Chicago he flagged down two police officers and intervened when Thompson tried to shoot the exhausted officers.
Suspect was 'like a bull'
"It’s not something I would recommend anyone to do. I just knew I had to help,” he said.
"[Thompson] was like a bull - the cops weren’t trying to hurt him in the fight; they were trying to subdue him,” he added.
The officers confronted the 6-foot-3, 250-pound Thompson outside the store. Thompson tried to run to his car, Robinson remembered, but was stopped by one of the officers. He then swung around before being handcuffed and clobbered first one officer and then the other with head punches, dropping both momentarily, police said.
"The cop was staggered back," Robinson said. "You could tell he got whacked really good, really good.”
The fight became a desperate struggle for life and death when Thompson took one of the officer’s weapons from its holster, turned it on them and fired a shot that by luck or fate missed everyone.
That's when Robinson instinctively rushed in as Thompson tried to fire another shot, grabbing the suspect's finger and pulling it off the trigger.
Luck strikes twice
At that point the dazed officers had gone for the gun and caught another lucky break when the loaded magazine dropped out the bottom of the Sig Sauer semi-automatic and rendered the gun un-fireable, police said. A safety mechanism built-in by the manufacturer blocks the trigger when the full magazine is not locked into place, even if a round is in the chamber, according to the gun manufacturer.
But Thompson had either not known the clip dropped or that the gun would no longer fire when he emerged from the second struggle with the gun still in his hand, said a police commander who described the scene.
He pointed the weapon at officers with a bullet in the chamber and pulled the trigger three or four more times, according to Cmdr. Kevin Duffin of the Lincoln District, but the trigger block within the weapon prevented it from firing.
“Had that mag not fallen out, he probably would’ve killed both officers,” said Commander Duffin. “There was blood all over the place. We didn’t know if it was his blood, their blood, whose blood. But at this point the store manager [Robinson], he runs over and grabs the bad guy’s arm and he starts pulling. You can see on the video he’s pulling the guy’s finger off the trigger — and he finally breaks the gun free and tosses the gun.”
The commander, who had gone to the scene, said Thompson was in a rage and shouting about the fight when he arrived.
“He was yelling that he had put guys down before and he couldn’t believe these guys were still coming at him. But thank God they did keep coming at him. If he had had enough time to realize the magazine had dropped he could have picked it up and fired it,” Duffin said.
Thompson was finally subdued and arrested. Both officers were taken to Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center with serious injuries, according to the police report. Police said Robinson and the second civilian were not injured during the brawl, though Robinson said his ribs were hurt.
Thompson had more than two grams of cocaine tucked into a sock, said police. He was taken to Swedish Covenant Hospital for blood and urine samples. Thompson told conflicting stories at the scene of being an Army veteran who had served in the Iraq War, according to police. The Army confirmed that Thompson had served as a military police officer, but said his service was from 1999 through 2002, while the Iraq War began in March of 2003.
Thompson was charged with four felonies: two counts of attempted first-degree murder, and one count each of possession of a controlled substance and disarming a police officer. He was also charged with a misdemeanor retail theft charge.
Duffin said everyone involved was shaken by the incident and that moments like that are what make being a police officer a difficult, uncertain and dangerous job.
“That’s the bad thing, riding around having your coffee, you pull over and you think it’s a nice quiet day, a cold day, and five seconds later you’re fighting for your life,” he said.
As for Robinson, he maintains he's not a fighter.
“I would pass up confrontation if I could every time,” he said.
The experience has given him a new appreciation for police, he said.
“I’ve always respected the police, and this just brings it to a higher level, what they have to do every day - they’re out there every day doing this."
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