Store Workers Rout Gunmen, Then Discover 'Blanks' Weren't

Two employees of a Hughes supermarket in Chatsworth chased two would-be robbers from their store Wednesday night while one of the holdup men blazed away at them with a pistol they thought was firing blanks.

They were wrong.

Police officer Tom Merkle said he dug three .38-caliber bullets out of the walls and a book in nearby shops. The bullets apparently were fired by one of the holdup men at Brett Born, 21, a clerk, and Steve Owen, 21, the night manager.

Born said the shooting began because one gunman was unable to understand that the store's time-lock safe cannot be opened by the market's workers.

"He couldn't open it, and he started chasing Steve Owen and me around the store, shooting at us because we wouldn't open the safe and give him the money.

"We couldn't do that, but he wouldn't believe us. We just kept ducking and running up and down the aisles. Everybody else in the store hit the floor," Born said.

He and Owen decided, Born said, that the robber was using blanks because they could not see any damage from the shots. "He kept shooting but nothing broke," Born said, so when the gunmen ran out of the store, they chased them down Canoga Avenue.

"He was firing away at us, and then he got in a red pickup truck and drove off," Born said.

Born estimated that the gunman fired four shots at them in the store and five outside. "We only chased him because we thought they were blanks," he said.

How did he feel when police told him they weren't?

"I felt like fainting," he said.

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