Originally created 09/27/00

Manager fights off robber



Thomas Kyle O'Steen thought it was a joke when he felt a gun pressed to the back of his head and heard a voice he recognized as a former employee he had gone out of his way to take home a week before demanding money.

"I thought it was a joke, even when I saw the ski mask," said Mr. O'Steen, a manager at Logan's Roadhouse on Robert C. Daniel Jr. Parkway.

Mr. O'Steen, 29, was in an office counting money from the night's trade after 11 p.m. Sunday when a man entered through the kitchen, put a gun to the back of his head and demanded money, he said.

At first, Mr. O'Steen said he intended to hand the money over but began to fear for his and 20-year-old employee Tara Rae Baxter's lives.

"In the process of giving him the money, he got agitated, and I just wasn't sure if he was going to shoot me in the back of the head and take her as a hostage to get out," said Mr. O'Steen, who was recovering Tuesday from the battering, bruising and biting he received in the struggle.

"It just got to a point, and he just kind of knelt down beside me to help put money in the bag, and he took the gun away from pointing at me. That's when I grabbed it. I just didn't think he was going to be satisfied with getting the money and not leaving a potential witness, somebody that could identify his voice."

During the ensuing struggle, the gun went off, breaking an office window.

The struggle continued out the back door of the restaurant, where the robber begged the manager to let him go, Mr. O'Steen said.

"He kept asking me to let him go, that he has a lot of crap in his life," Mr. O'Steen said. "And I just kept looking at him and going, 'You put my life in jeopardy. You put Tara's life in jeopardy."'

Eventually, Mr. O'Steen let go of the gun, he said.

"The guy was so much stronger than me," he said. "I was not sure how much more I had left in me."

The robber began running away, but not before firing another shot, Mr. O'Steen said.

"I don't know whether he was firing at me or up in the air or what," he said.

The assailant fled toward Bobby Jones Expressway. Deputies found Tommy L. Gray lying on the grass on a shoulder of the expressway, a police report stated.

Deputies arrested Mr. Gray, 25, of Libby Drive and charged him with criminal attempted armed robbery, aggravated assault, possession of a firearm during commission of crime, simple battery and an arrest warrant on a previous misdemeanor charge, Richmond County sheriff's Maj. Ken Autry said.

A week before the attempted robbery, Mr. O'Steen said Mr. Gray, who had been fired for grabbing a knife during an argument with another employee, called him at about 2 a.m. and asked him to come pick him up and take him home.

"We were just finishing cleaning up," Mr. O'Steen said. "I hadn't had the best day, and I was tired, but I drove over to Washington Road and took him and his cousin home."

He keeps thinking about that.

Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228.