Location: Mesa, Arizona
Date: December 21, 1991
December 21, 1991, was an unusually slow Saturday morning for M & S Sporting Goods in Mesa, Arizona. The owners, sixty-nine-year-old George Rosenkrans and his wife, Emilie, were working in the back along with their daughter, Judy, and employee, Rick Meyer. There were no customers in the store when George heard the doorbell chime and walked toward the front of the store.
"May I help you?" he asked. George was greeted by three masked gunmen. "This is a holdup!" announced the thief disguised in a gorilla mask as he aimed his sawed-off shotgun at George. A second gunman, wearing a ski mask, shoved his shotgun into George's stomach. "You've got to be kidding," the stunned owner replied, pushing the gun aside. The gorilla-masked assailant responded by shooting George in the side.
Judy heard the blast and immediately knew her father had been shot. "Dad!" she screamed. Instantly, another shot rang out and a bullet whizzed past Judy's face, missing her by inches. She hid under a desk, wondered whether her father was dead or alive, looked at a picture of her daughter, Kayla, and thought to herself, "What would my daughter do without me for the rest of her life if I were to die?" The gunmen then ordered Rick to the front of the store and forced him to fill their bags with pistols and rifles. Then they ordered him to lay face-down on the floor. Rick expected a bullet in the back. Instead, he heard the door's automatic chime ring as the gunmen fled.
Bob Ramsey happened to be driving past the store when the masked men ran out, their arms loaded with rifles. He knew immediately they had just committed a robbery and, since he wanted to see them caught, decided to follow them.
Meanwhile, in the store, Emilie called 911. Her emergency call was answered by Mesa Police Department Dispatcher Gary Melton, who sent police and rescue units to the scene.
Ramsey followed the assailants to an apartment house. He was scared that they might see him, but the men were too busy unloading their rifles to notice. Ramsey then drove back to the sporting goods store to phone the police, but by the time he arrived, officers were already on the scene, including investigating officer Lieutenant Dan Day. Ramsey told Day he knew where the suspects were.
While Mesa Fire Department paramedic Arnold Cornejo treated George, rushing him to the hospital, Lt. Day drove Ramsey to the suspects' hideout. Backup units arrived as Day and Ramsey watched for some sign of the suspects. Officers sneaked up on the apartment. When the door opened and the men walked out, Ramsey concluded that they were in fact the suspects and the police made their move, two of them got down, but the third tried to get away with Day chasing him, the suspect tried to throw a garbage can at Day but missed him, Day caught the suspect who was trying to get Day's gun to shoot him with, but was maced down by another officer, Day got hit with the mace too. The suspects, twenty-year-old Juan Lizarraga, twenty-one-year-old Michael Greenburg, and a sixteen-year-old-boy, were later convicted of armed robbery and aggravated assault and sentenced to prison.
George underwent surgery to repair his gunshot wound and remove a damaged spleen. During his recovery he suffered a stroke, but after intensive physical therapy and a difficult recuperation, he returned to work seven months later. To avoid the store being robbed or him getting shot again, he decided to stop selling guns and gun equipment and sell Girl Scout stuff instead. "I went through five campaigns in World War II and never got hit. Civilian life is rough," laughs George.
Lt. Day was very impressed with Bob Ramsey's actions. "What Mr. Ramsey did is far beyond what's expected and what's asked. Thank God he wasn't injured. But," adds the lieutenant, "I wouldn't recommend that anybody take that much action without the proper training or ability to protect yourself. The potential for violence in this situation was extremely high."
George and his family are thankful that he's okay. "I value each and every day that I get up and go at it again," says George. "My wife and I have been married forty-five years and I tell her I love her every single night now." "I love George," says Emilie. "I don't know what I'd do without him."