Tacony deli owner: ‘We had to defend ourselves’

Posted: February 07, 2013

The door to Anna's Deli was propped wide open Wednesday morning, with the owner of the Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood store behind the counter to greet his regular customers.

A little more than 12 hours earlier, the 55-year-old deli owner and his wife were confronted by a 19-year-old armed robber who burst into the small Tacony shop and threatened their lives. But the shopkeeper had a weapon of his own, and returned fire after the gunman shot at him. He struck the would-be robber in the chest, police said, killing him on the spot.

But taking the next day off from work wasn't an option, said John, the store owner, whom The Inquirer is not fully naming because of the nature of the crime. He said he and his wife, Anna, were shaken and deeply upset. But they value their store, which has been on the 4400 block of Princeton Avenue for more than 22 years.

"We want to show that we're not leaving," John said. "This is a neighborhood store with neighborhood people."

All morning, customers came to the store offering their support, John said.

"They hug us," said Anna, 54. "Everybody has been so good to us."

The shooting appears to have been justified, and police sources said they did not expect the shopkeeper to be charged. The store was equipped with surveillance cameras that captured the shooting.

Police have not yet released the name of the gunman, but said he had prior arrests. They are looking into the possibility that he was involved in other armed robberies.

The gunman entered the store shortly after 6 Tuesday night, police said, drew a weapon, and went behind the counter to where Anna was standing. Pointing the gun to her chest, he forced her to her knees and ordered her to open the cash register. As she started taking the money out, she screamed for her husband, who came out from a back room with his gun.

The teenager shot at John, missing him, and John fired back three times.

"If my husband hadn't shot him, he would have been shot," Anna said.

John agreed.

"I didn't want it to come to that," he said. "But we had to defend ourselves."

Contact Allison Steele at 215-854-2641 or asteele@phillynews.com.

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