Gail Lizer's employees watched in surprise Monday as their mild-mannered boss attempted to grab a pistol from a robber who held up her family's frame shop in North Hollywood.
Police speculated that she had thought the gun was a toy. But it wasn't.
In the scuffle that followed, Lizer, of North Hollywood, was shot in the abdomen.
She was in serious but stable condition at St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where doctors were considering surgery, while her family and employees marveled at her action.
"It just seems like in that type of situation, another person would have turned over the money," said Andrea Ching, one of two clerks present.
Lizer, 42, was minding The Canvas Peddlar in the 5600 block of Laurel Canyon Boulevard when a man in his early 30s entered the store with a handgun and demanded the contents of the cash register, police said.
"All of a sudden, she just grabbed the gun and yelled at him to get out," said Ching, 20.
Lizer instructed another clerk to telephone police, and as she struggled with the robber, the gun went off.
"When I came back, her leg was bleeding and he had the gun pointed at me," said the clerk, Stefyn Klein, 18, who turned over the cash without hesitation, she said, adding that the robber "grabbed all the money" and fled on foot along Burbank Boulevard.
Police are seeking a dark-haired man with a mustache, wearing a light-colored baseball cap and T-shirt, said Bob Searle, a detective with the North Hollywood Division of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Lizer's husband, Darryl, who was at the family's nearby frame-making shop at the time, said his wife is usually calm under stress and remained true to character even after she was wounded.
"The two employees were so rattled that when she told them to call the police, one of the girls dialed 411," he said. "So she picked up the phone and dialed 911 herself."
Ching described Lizer as usually a "mild-mannered" woman who "doesn't overreact to things or stress easily." Darryl Lizer, the victim of two robberies himself, said he had given "strict instructions to everybody to turn over the money" if they were ever faced with a gun.
He said he understood his wife's actions, however. "It wasn't the money she was protecting," he said. "She was reacting to the fact that this was the wrong thing to do--that you just can't do this to a person."