Sunday, August 16, 2009

Top cop Raymond Kelly says Harlem Blue Flame Co. owner "Shotgun Gus" shot in self-defense

From the Daily News by Tanyanika Samuels and Corky Siemaszko:

New York's top cop on Saturday defended the shotgun-toting Harlem businessman who became a reluctant hero by blasting the bandits terrorizing his store.

Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Charles (Gus) Augusto "acted in self-defense" when he killed two thugs and wounded two more on Thursday.

"He certainly had the right to defend himself and his co-workers," he said. "I know he took no pleasure in this thing. It was the toughest day of his life."

Kelly spoke as officials prepared to arraign the two tough guys who survived being shot by Augusto on Thursday.

"No one could take pleasure in taking a life, but all indications are he acted pursuant to New York penal law," Kelly said of Augusto.

A 72-year-old businessman who has operated the Blue Flame restaurant supply store for decades, Augusto grabbed his gun after the invaders burst into his store and began beating up his store clerk.

Augusto said he told the alleged ringleader, 29-year-old James Morgan of Manhattan, they had no money and pleaded with him to let them go. But Morgan wouldn't listen and resumed pistol-whipping Toxie (JB) Hall.

So Augusto fired three times, killing Morgan and 21-year-old Raylin Footmon. Shamel McCloud and Bernard Witherspoon, both 21, staggered bleeding out of the store and were quickly caught by cops.

"I would have been happy if they'd all run out of the door," Augusto told The Daily News on Friday when he reopened his store on West 125th St. "I'm sick to my stomach over it."

Augusto also bristled at being called a hero.

"I would have felt like a hero if I could have talked that kid into going home," he said.

Asked if he had another weapon in case somebody else tried to rob him, Augusto said, "I'm not going to tell you that."

It was later discovered that Augusto did not have a permit for the shotgun, which he had purchased more than 20 years earlier - and had hoped he would never have to fire.

Police officials said Saturday that shotgun owners are required to register their weapons with the city - unlike permits needed for handguns. Augusto's shotgun was registered.

Augusto stayed home Saturday and the store was closed.

The front door was still pitted from the shotgun blasts. And on the sidewalk, specks of blood were still visible.

With Jamie Locher

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