On Saturday evening, a man wearing a mask walked into a South Side Chicago bodega, pulled out a gun and announced a robbery.
As the robber pointed his gun at the store’s employees, however, a customer pulled out his own gun.
The robber’s gun, it turns out, was fake.
The customer’s was not.
Now the robbery suspect is dead, gunned down by the concealed-weapon-toting customer.
The case is the latest in a string of incidents across the country in which bystanders have pulled out their concealed weapons and used them against suspected criminals. Some cases have drawn heavy scrutiny, such as an Oct. 6 incident at a Home Depot near Detroit when a woman with a concealed weapons permit fired at fleeing shoplifters. She was charged with recklessly using her handgun.
In Saturday’s shooting, however, police have said the customer had a valid concealed carry license and that charges against him “do not appear likely,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
Nonetheless, the Chicago shooting is also raising questions, primarily from the family of the robbery suspect, Reginald Gildersleeve.
“Something doesn’t seem right,” said Igbinosa Oronsaye, whose mother married Gildersleeve three years ago. “He didn’t deserve to get shot multiple times.”
The incident is all the more mysterious because it occurred on Halloween and involved a man in a mask with a fake gun. Various law enforcement individuals told the Tribune that the gun was either a toy or a paintball gun.
Oronsaye told ABC7 that Gildersleeve was a former employee of the store and knew the owner well.
Was the shooting a Halloween prank gone horribly wrong?
Police don’t think so. They believe Gildersleeve actually was trying to rob the store when the customer, feeling threatened by a masked man waving what appeared to be a real gun, opened fire.
That explanation is bolstered by Gildersleeve’s “lengthy” arrest history, including at least one robbery, a Chicago police spokesman told the Tribune.
Either way, the shooting marked a strange end to a seemingly contradictory life.
Gildersleeve, 55, was a tall and powerfully built man with a strong jaw and a beaming smile. His Facebook page shows him in a suit and tie proudly posing with his wife in one arm and a Bible in the other. He often posted photos of his family, including a grandson.
Court records, however, reveal another side of Gildersleeve. They show he had been arrested at least half a dozen times dating back to the 1980s. Several arrests had to do with narcotics, but most of the incidents involved theft or robbery. He was in and out of prison, with burglary convictions as recent as 2005.
From his Facebook page, it appears as if Gildersleeve tried to turn his life around. He got married, posted inspirational photos and quotes, and once wrote a lengthy tribute to God and the redemptive power of grace.
“Love is that force that uplifts and inspires mankind,” he wrote a year ago, adding “It can lift a wretched human being from the miry clay of despair and set feet upon the solid rock respectability and service.”
Ultimately, however, it seems Gildersleeve’s old life overtook his new one. And on Saturday night, as candy-hungry children donned costumes and took to Chicago’s streets, Gildersleeve donned a mask of his own — but for very different reasons.
At around 7 p.m., Gildersleeve edged his broad frame through the door of a Mexican bodega in Gage Park, a neighborhood in southwest Chicago. He then pulled out a realistic-looking handgun and pointed it at the store’s employees, demanding money, police told the Tribune and the Associated Press.
As Gildersleeve allegedly tried to rob the bodega, a customer inside the store pulled out his concealed weapon and shot the would-be robber several times, including at least once in the chest, police told the Tribune. Gildersleeve was pronounced dead at 7:10 p.m., the newspaper reported, citing the medical examiner’s office.
Unlike the Oct. 6 shooting at the Home Depot near Detroit, however, authorities appear to believe the bystander was justified in his use of force.
Police have referred the case to the Cook County state’s attorney’s office to “determine if there’s any reason to charge” the 44-year-old male shooter, a police spokesman told the Tribune. But charges were not filed Sunday and “do not appear likely,” Chicago police said in a statement.
America’s long-simmering debate over gun control and concealed weapons boiled over last month after an Oct. 1 mass shooting at a community college in Oregon. After the incident, in which a lone gunman killed nine other people and then himself, many gun rights advocates and several GOP presidential candidates argued that the massacre could have been prevented had the victims been armed.
Saturday’s shooting appears to have stoked that fiery debate once more.
Oronsaye suggested Gildersleeve could have been apprehended without being killed and appeared to call for charges against the shooter with the concealed weapon.
“Some people don’t actually know how to use guns,” he told the Tribune. “They go to firing ranges, but it’s not the same as a bullet going into someone’s body, it’s not the same as a bullet going into flesh. They should be able to wound first, kill next. He didn’t deserve to get shot multiple times.
“You just took a brother, you just took a father from a lot of people. Somebody’s got to answer for that.”
Some online commenters agreed.
“The shooter should be arrested and tried for murder,” one wrote. “A conceal carry doesn’t give you the right to act all Wyatt Earp. He wasn’t in danger.”
Many others, however, sprang to the defense of the shooter.
“You can’t know that a gun is real or not when someone points one at you,” one wrote.
“He deserved to die,” added another, “and sorry but when you are saving lives and protecting yourself you shoot to kill.”