METHUEN - A man who tried to rob a Methuen liquor store at gunpoint last night, met his match in Ross Vannarith.
Vannarith, the patriarch at the family-run Methuen Package Store at 464 Lowell St., walked into the shop just as the robber demanded money from a female clerk behind the cash register.
The robber had his back turned to Vannarith, and never saw him coming.
Vannarith, a short, muscular man, was returning from a trip to BJs when he saw the robbery in progress.
"I just grabbed him tight and held the gun down," Vannarith, a Lowell resident, said in an interview a short while afterwards. Vannarith's son joined in the fray, and together they knocked the suspect to the ground. They grabbed a bottle of fish sauce and beat the man, Vannarith said.
It was their only bottle of fish sauce, Vannarith added while cleaning up the mess caused by the fight.
The father and son beat the man so badly that blood was spilled all over the floor near the entrance to the store. They used bleach to mop it up and they swept away the broken glass from the fish sauce.
Vannarith and his son kept the suspect pinned to the floor while other family members called police. "We told him (the robber) this is not the right way to do this," Vannarith said.
The attempted robbery happened around 9:45 p.m. at the store, which sits on Route 110 near the rotary off exit 46 on Interstate 93.
Police said the suspect, whom they declined to identify last night, was taken to Holy Family Hospital for treatment. He was expected to be released overnight, at which time police were planning to arrest him on a charge of robbery.
Though the investigation was still underway late last night, Police Lt. Michael Pappalardo said that so far officers had not found any wrongdoing on the part of the store owner and his family.
"The investigation has not determined any criminal acts on their part at this point," he said.
The suspect had $400 to $500 in his pocket that he had taken from the cash register, but the family got it back, Vannarith said.
Vannarith later found out the weapon was a BB gun, but he didn't know that during the fight, he said.
"It looked like a real gun," he said. "I had to do what I had to do."
The rest of the family - two women and the son - declined to comment. The son said they were too shaken.
Staff writer Jessica Benson contributed to this report.