ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A Bergen County family fought back to protect their store and each other when a man tried to rob the store with a flare gun Thursday.
Police responded to Tracks Smoke Shop on Midland Avenue in Elmwood Park, New Jersey around 7 p.m. for reports of an armed robbery in progress.
Owner Lisa Vega and her daughter told CBS2’s Ali Bauman they were there working when a strange man walked in and started making strange comments.
“Just picking stuff up, saying things, and he kept repeating that he had a gun and he could rob us but that it wouldn’t be the right thing to do,” she said.
Feeling uneasy, Vega called her son, who tried to appease the customer from behind the counter, hoping he would leave. Instead, he spent 30 minutes perusing products, putting things in his pockets, even drinking a display energy drink from the counter.
Finally, he took out an orange flare gun and started to load it with a live flare round, threatening to shoot the family.
Vega’s son tried to grab the gun while his sister jumped on the man from behind, knocking over shelves in the process. The siblings tried to subdue the man while their mother ran for help.
“Extremely proud of the way they handled the entire situation. They were very, very calm, as much as they were nervous and concerned,” she said.
There are eight surveillance cameras visible throughout the store, but Vega said she wasn’t surprised the thief didn’t seem to notice them.
“He was definitely drugged up with something. Based on his behavior, he was absolutely on something,” she said.
Gabriel Velez, 33, of Fort Lee was charged with robbery, possession of a weapon, possession of a weapon for unlawful purposes, and resisting arrest.