By Carlos Sadovi
6:40 AM CDT, April 11, 2013
Luis Quizhpe doesn't remember getting shot as he grabbed a bat and swatted at a gunman holding his brother-in-law by the throat in their Logan Square store.
But he can still hear the loud bangs of gunfire. Ten shots in all as he and his brother-in-law Luis Ernesto Aucaquizhpe bashed and battered and finally chased the robbers out of Quizhpe's Gifts and Sports Tuesday afternoon.
"I thought it was a toy, but what made me frightened and really made me angry was when they grabbed my brother-in-law by the neck and they were pointing the gun at him," Quizhpe, 62, said Wednesday from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center, where he was nursing a leg wound.
"It was like the Fourth of July. Pow, pow, pow," he said. "Then he was yelling, 'Kill the (expletive)."
Quizhpe said he didn't know he had been shot until his brother-in-law had chased the robbers out of the store with a fire extinguisher and Quizhpe was on the phone calling police. "I felt something warm down my leg," he said. "I lost about a pint of blood."
The confrontation lasted just a minute and a half, all of it clearly caught on surveillance video. It shows two men in hoodies entering the store in the 2200 block of North Western Avenue around 4:30 p.m. One of them grabs Aucaquizhpe off a chair and drags him to the counter, then points a gun at Quizhpe while the other robber walks around to the cash register.
Quizhpe holds out his hands and opens the register. The robber grabs a handful of cash, and then starts struggling with Quizhpe and yells at the gunman to shoot him. At least one muzzle flash can be seen as the gunman opens fire, apparently wounding his partner who limps back around the counter and toward the front door.
What follows is a mad scramble. The gunman keeps firing as he tries to jump over the counter and reach a button to unlock the door while Quizhpe keeps hitting him with the bat. Aucaquizhpe joins in, first jabbing the fleeing robbers with an extension rod, then hurling a stool at the gunman and finally chasing them out with a red fire extinguisher.
Anyone seeing the video can only wonder why Quizhpe wasn't shot more times. But Quizhpe has an answer. "God didn't permit me to go yet," he said. "There must be a reason, for all the shots that he fired." According to the family, police found about 10 shell casings inside the store.
Aucaquizhpe believes God had a hand in his decision to pay a visit to the store on Tuesday.
He said he was waiting for customers to leave when he suddenly felt an arm around his neck and looked down to see the gun. "I froze I didn't know what to do," Aucaquizhpe said from his home. "The gun was right there. Then they began to shoot and shoot and shoot.
"I think he ran out of bullets because he stopped shooting at us," Aucaquizhpe said.
As the robbers focused on Quizhpe, Aucaquizhpe said he managed to step away in some clothes racks and grabbed a long metal rod to hit the gunman. He noticed the stool and threw that at the robbers, then went for the fire extinguisher.
"They surprised us, I was catatonic because one of them kept saying, 'Shoot them, shoot them,' " said Aucaquizhpe.
"I was trying to grab what I could, that's when I saw the fire extinguisher. I'm still surprised that, with all the shooting, we didn't get hit. It wasn't our time."
Quizhpe's wife Aida said she thinks the robbers got the worst of it. "I think both of them have to be in the hospital because they were more badly injured," said Aida, who was out shopping for groceries when the robbery happened Tuesday afternoon. "It was a fight like you can't imagine."
Aida Quizhpe said the family has had their share of break-ins in the store they have run for 28 years at 2242 N. Western Ave. Her husband was shot at during a robbery more than a dozen years ago, and someone pointed a gun at her years ago but the gun jammed.
Still, Luis Quizhpe said he thought nothing when he buzzed the two hooded men into the store. "My husband is such a good person that he gave one of them a tissue because his nose was running," Aida Quizhpe said.
Aida Quizhpe said her husband may have used a baseball bat to fight back, "but it was a "guardian angel" that protected him and his brother-in-law. "They tried to kill my husband."
Luis Quizhpe said he expected to be released from Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center tonight or Thursday. Doctors told him he may have to use a wheelchair and undergo therapy until his wound heals.
Quizhpe said he is now considering retiring and selling off the store that his family has run for decades. He said his son and his young grandchildren had been in the store only minutes earlier. "With what happened, I've been thinking about selling everything off and changing my business," he said. "The reality is, with everything going on, it's difficult to put myself and my family in danger."
People working in businesses along the street said they worry about the guns in the neighborhood, but said there haven't been a lot of robberies.
"It's not a bad area," said Susan Brickler, whose husband owns a custom design neon sign shop across street. She has been working on and off there for 28 years and the store hasn't been robbed. "Sometimes there are homeless people around but that's in all the city. I think it's safe. It used to be a lot worse than this."
Celia Gomez, who has run a vegetarian restaurant across street for two years, said she was robbed of a computer and radio but didn't file a report. "It's quiet," she said in Spanish. "It's scary, thinking this could happen. I'm worried now about what happened."
Police said the suspects fled north on Western and then west on Belden Avenue, where they drove off in a gray car. One suspect was being questioned Wednesday at Stroger Hospital, police said.
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