Two workers shot during robbery at restaurant

March 30, 2004|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Two employees of Italiano's Restaurant were shot early yesterday during a robbery in which customers and employees were forced into the kitchen at gunpoint.

The incident happened about 12:30 a.m., when two men entered the Southwest Baltimore restaurant from the rear as employees were taking out trash, said police spokesman Donny Moses. He said neither of the employees, cooks Santos Anibal, 28, or Paco Bautista, 25, was seriously wounded.

George Protopapas, 45, owner of the restaurant at 2229 Washington Blvd., said that shortly after the men entered the restaurant, they forced employees and a couple dining there into the kitchen at gunpoint.

Protopapas said he was in his office but realized something was amiss when he noticed a strange man walking behind the counter toward the cash register.

"I came out to see what was going on," Protopapas said. "I saw him from the office, but I didn't see that he had a gun, [that] he was a robber."

Protopapas said he urged the gunman to relax and instructed the cashier to open the register. She did, and the suspect took the till, containing about $3,000.

A short time later, as a second armed man stood at the door in the rear of the restaurant, Protopapas said he began wrestling with the first gunman and took his weapon.

As the robbers fled the restaurant on foot, one of them fired two shots, grazing Anibal in the left forearm and striking Bautista in the left thigh.

Moses said police have no suspects in the robbery.

"I think these guys were drug addicts," Protopapas said. "I think they were in trouble. I don't think anybody normal would act like this.

"I feel very, very mad ... Not because of the money. I have two restaurants. I have help-wanted signs. If people want to work, I'll hire them. These guys were bums."

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