Jerome Ersland was back at work Thursday filling prescriptions and hoping that by taking the life of a 16-year-old boy two days earlier, he had saved others.
Rubbing an oversized bandage on his left forearm, where he said he was grazed by a robber’s bullet, Ersland related details of what he said was a highly organized hit on the Reliable Discount Pharmacy.
"I just regret anybody would get killed,” Ersland said. "But if I wouldn’t have been here, there would have been three people killed — the other pharmacist and the two techs.”
He also recalls the angry voices of people who gathered outside the pharmacy Tuesday night, shouting that he was a racist who unnecessarily took a life of the Seeworth Academy charter school student, Antwun Parker.
"There were a lot of black people gathered out there yelling and everything at my boss,” Ersland said.
An organized hit
After the pharmacy near SW 59 and Pennsylvania was robbed two years ago, the owner installed new security measures to try to make sure his employees would never again be forced to a back room and pistol-whipped.
"We have a very good security system,” Ersland said, motioning to the magnetic door locks that won’t let anyone in or out of the store without permission. "The door locks, and they (robbers) knew that. They had cased it because they knew exactly what time to hit us when we’d have all of our narcotics out and our money out.”
About 10 minutes before 6 p.m., Ersland said, two robbers wearing ski masks waited for someone to leave the pharmacy and then grabbed the open door and threw down a board to stop the door from closing.
The robbers went in cursing and yelling, ordering employees to give them money and drugs, Ersland said.
Two women who were working behind the counter ran for a back room where they would be safe, but Ersland said he couldn’t run. Ersland said he’s a veteran with disabilities from wounds he received in Operation Desert Storm, wears a cumbersome back brace and just had his latest back surgery six weeks ago.
"All of a sudden, they started shooting,” he said. "They were attempting to kill me, but they didn’t know I had a gun. They said, ‘You’re gonna die.’ That’s when one of them shot at me, and that’s when he got my hand.”
Ersland said he was thrown against a wall, but managed to go for the semiautomatic in his pocket.
"And that’s when I started defending myself,” he said. "The first shot got him in the head, and that slowed him down so I could get my other gun.”
But as one robber hit the floor, Ersland said, a bullet from the other robber whizzed past his ear.
The pharmacist said he then got his second gun from a nearby drawer, a Taurus "Judge.”
After he had the big gun, Ersland said, the second robber ran.
But as he started to chase after the second robber, Ersland said, he looked back to see the 16-year-old he had shot in the head getting up again. Ersland said he then emptied the Kel-Tec .380 into the boy’s chest as he kept going after the second robber.
"I went after the other guy, but he was real fast and I’m crippled,” Ersland said.
Outside the pharmacy, he said he saw what he thought was a third black male in a car with the engine running and reaching for what appeared to be a shotgun.
"I pulled out my ‘Judge’ and pointed it right between his eyes and he floored it,” Ersland said.
Because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, police said they could not confirm any of Ersland’s story, including whether Ersland was shot, whether the robbers ever fired on him or even if Parker was armed.
On Thursday, police were still looking for the second robber, described as a black man in his 20s, about 5 feet, 7 inches tall, and weighing about 175 pounds. The man was last seen wearing a red shirt and dark pants.
A man was arrested about a block away after crashing a stolen car that fit the description Ersland gave, but police said the man has not been linked to the robbery.
After the gunfire
When he went back in the pharmacy, Ersland said, he called police.
"I asked if the girls were all right, and they were in the back crying,” he said. "I was glad to know they were alive. We were lucky and I’m glad I defended us, because I feel that a person has a right to defend themselves at their home or at their work. People deserve to be safe and not be afraid of people that want to take money when they don’t work for it.”
That’s what the Second Amendment and the state’s "concealed carry” license are for, he said.
"Fortunately, God made them miss me, except for this minor scratch,” Ersland said.
"I was able to return fire and protect the girls’ lives. God was helping me.”