Wednesday, February 06, 2002

The family store

Stickup? No, this is a takedown

        Only a lucky man could wrestle with an armed robber and live to tell the story.

        Only a wise man would be robbed again, hours later — for the fifth time in less than a year — and not try to blame his troubles on the rest of the world.

        Falou Diouf happens to be lucky and wise.

        The West African native of Senegal owns Mini's Deli in the West End.

        Sometime around the halftime show on Super Bowl Sunday, the deli's door swung open.

        In walked a man with a gun.

        Falou's brother, Mamadou, sat on a chair toward the rear of the store. Falou was next to him, hidden by a rack of candy.

        The brothers were talking. Falou was stacking Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Mamadou was laughing.

        “Give me the money,” the gunman barked.

        He pointed a 9mm handgun at Mamadou. Bang!


        The bullet missed Mamadou by inches. A case of grape-flavored Lotsa Cola took a direct hit.

        “That's when I jumped on him,” Falou said.



        The bullet smashed into a cooler's glass door. Four Diet Pepsi bottles bit the dust.

        The second shot brought a third brother, Samba, from the back room. The trio wrestled with the gunman.

        Groceries hit the floor. Tin cans. Ketchup bottles. Toilet paper. All into a pool of grape cola.

        “He was very bad,” Mamadou said. “Very strong.”

        And still very armed.

        “I finally got the gun away from him,” Falou said. “And got this.”

        He winced as he stood by his counter and put hydrogen peroxide on his skinned fingers.

        The brothers introduced the robber to the deli's floor. Then, they tied him up with an orange extension cord.

        He begged them not to call the police.

        “You know me,” he told Falou. “I come here all the time. I spend money here.”

        Falou reminded him that good customers don't fire loaded weapons in his direction. Then, he called 911.

        Common sense and the cops say: In a robbery, let the money go. Life is priceless.

        Falou knows this. “But,” he protested, “I'm not going to let him kill me like this.”

        He put his hands behind his back and smiled.

        “I have to fight.”

        The brothers have owned Mini's for three years. They have lost $20,000 from eight robberies, five since last summer. The most recent burglary happened four hours after the brothers hogtied the gunman. Someone popped a back window and stole $1,200 in cigarettes.

        Falou does not feel he is being singled out because he's an immigrant. He shares an African heritage with most of his customers.

        “Those robbers,” he said, “just want the money.”

        He sees the robberies as an occupational hazard.

        “In this business, you risk your life every day,” he said. “This happened in Senegal, where I also ran a store.”

        Falou came to the United States with his brothers in 1995. He works hard. Seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Three years — no days off.

        “If you want to work,” he said, “you can get anything you want in America.”

        Mini's has been robbed by people who don't believe in the American dream.

        One of those bums met three hard workers who are wise and very lucky.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail


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