By Jill Harmacinski and Yadira Betances
---- — LAWRENCE – When a masked man walked into his South Union Street liquor store Sunday night wearing a mask in 90-degree heat, Arturo Taveras knew something was up.
And when the masked man pulled a gun on him and demanded “all his money,” Taveras, 69, took his own gun off his right hip and pointed it right back at the would-be robber.
Taveras, 69, who was pistol-whipped and tied up with electrical tape during a March 2011 attempted robbery at McCann’s Liquors, was not about to be victimized again.
Taveras’ quick action Sunday night paid off and he successfully thwarted another attempted robbery of his liquor store. When he saw Taveras’ gun, the attempted robber was spooked and ran from the 253 So. Union St. store around 10:30 p.m.
“I was shocked to see him, then I realized right away that it was an attempted robbery because he came into the store with a gun in his hand. I think I reacted well because he turned around and left ... When I find myself in situations like this, I always think ‘the coward one dies first’ so I push all fears aside,’” he said.
As the suspect ran away, Taveras cautiously watched through his glass front door, later telling police the suspect fled south on South Union Street and then ran west on nearby Andover Street.
Detectives yesterday were reviewing surveillance tape from the liquor and searching for the attempted robber.
Standing 6 feet tall with an athletic build, the man was wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, dark blue jeans and dark shoes. He was masked and also had his hood pulled up over his head. He carried a black gun in his right hand, which he held across his waist, according to a report by officer Carl Farrington.
The criminal said “Give me all you money,” in English, with no noticeable accent, Taveras told police.
Taveras said he was immediately relieved when the robber left, and thanked God.
“It was God who was there with me. Whomever believes in God lacks nothing,” he said.
On Sunday, March 6, 2011, an attempted robbery at Taveras’ liquor store was much more dangerous and violent. Jose Gonzalez, 30, and Rafael Tejeda, 44, both pleaded guilty to attacking and trying to rob Taveras that day. Both are now serving state prison sentences.
That day, Taveras found himself staring into the barrel of a pistol after Gonzalez and Tejeda, both of Dorchester, entered his store and bought lottery tickets. As Taveras handed the men the tickets, they held him up.
Gonzalez was convicted in late January of pistol-whipping Taveras multiple times in the head while his accomplice, Tejeda, Dorchester, took money. The duo bound Taveras’ hands and fled to his second floor apartment after Taveras fired a round from the gun he carries on his hip. The robbers hid in a crawl space in the apartment for more than four hours before they were captured by a Lawrence Police SWAT team.
Taveras required dozens of staples to his head and multiple trips to the hospital.
Gonzalez was sentenced to 10 to 11 1/2 years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts each of armed robbery and kidnapping, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and a single count of carrying a firearm without a license. When he’s released from prison, Gonzalez will also be on probation for three years.
Tejeda, 44, pleaded guilty on Jan. 5, 2012, to multiple counts of armed robbery, kidnapping and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. He was sentenced to 6 to 8 1/2 years in state prison, followed by 11 years of probation.
As a victim of violence and a local business owner, Taveras said he must remain prepared and vigilant. Another attempted robbery will not deter him from running his business.
“If we call give in to fear, all the stores in town will close. You just have to work hard and face it,” he said. “If God is on your side, he’ll protect you.”
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.