For a split second, the man thought about jumping the armed robber who had forced him and three others to lie face down in the back room of the Citgo station.
"Your mind says, ‘Is it worth it?' " the 53-year-old father of three said. "But I love my wife and my family too much. It’s not worth it.
"I don’t know if they were druggies or what," he said about the gunman and the woman with him Monday night in Portage Park. "If they’re hyped up, they could be stronger than you are. I wasn’t going to take a chance and end up losing that battle and getting shot. . .If it doesn’t go right, I get a bullet in the head."
For a long 10 minutes, he and the others waited, not knowing if the robber would walk back and kill them all.
“I was hoping that they don’t shoot. Brown’s Chicken came to mind,’’ he said, referring to the mass slaying in Palatine more than 20 years ago.
Finally, the clerk got up and checked. The man and woman had left after grabbing a thousand dollars in cash from the register. They also swiped several cartons of Newport cigarettes and some packs of cigars.
The man, who did not want to be identified, said he was relieved but angry. "How dare they, you know?"
The man and woman entered the Citgo at 4219 N. Milwaukee Ave. around 9:30 p.m., and the man man pulled a gun and demanded money from the 28-year-old clerk, according to the police report.
The clerk gave them around $1,000. But then the two bound his hands with zip ties and dragged him to the back room, where one of them hit him and demanded to know where the safe was, according to the police report.
They were interrupted by a 33-year-old woman from Norridge who walked in, police said. She too was tied up and ordered to lie face down next to the clerk, the report said.
That’s when the 53-year-old man entered, along with a woman he didn’t know. The man said he stopped at the station to grab some milk and a Danish for his wife, as he often did. But this time he saw no one at the register.
"I knew something was going on," he said. "They’re usually pretty quick and my mind started clicking when this guy came from the back."
Instead of going up to the register, the guy began grabbing cigars. "I started trying to get out and he held the door and said, ‘Don’t move or I’ll shoot you,' " the man said.
The robber was “no more than a couple of inches’’ from him, he said. "It was surreal, like something you see on a video or on TV."
He and the woman were ordered to lie down with the others, but they were not tied up. They were warned they would be shot if they tried to use their phones or looked at them, police said.
The two repeatedly returned to the front of the store, scooping up cigarettes and cigars before fleeing down an alley, police said. The man said he called 911 about 10 p.m. after the clerk peeked outside to make sure they were not still there, the victim said.
The police report described the robbers as black, between the ages of 20 and 30 and wearing white T-shirts and shorts. The woman wore a white White Sox cap with tan trim and the man wore a red Chicago Bulls cap, the report said.
Detectives said they were reviewing video surveillance and no arrests have been made.
The man said he will have no problem identifying the robber if an arrest is made. "I will always remember that face."
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