With Christmas approaching, who can blame people for trying to find bargains for gift-giving? But sometimes the search for a deal can come with all manner of danger. A dear friend of mine sought out an iPhone 8 for his lovely bride on Craigslist. Florio thought he’d found a good deal. Instead, when he arrived, he faced an armed robber with a Smith & Wesson snub-nosed .38 Special. We can all learn some valuable lessons from his experience.
It all began with Florio searching online for one of Apple’s latest and greatest. He wanted to surprise his wife by picking up a lightly used phone from someone who’d upgraded to the iPhone X. Finding a couple of phones for sale on Craigslist, he talked the seller down from $750 to $500. Once they settled on a price, they agreed to meet this past Friday afternoon at a residence in Harvey, Illinois.
Florio showed up at the residence above, appointed time of 4:15pm with his teenage daughter in the car.
First, a little about Florio. Born and raised in Albania, Florio went to college and eventually became a school teacher before emigrating to the United States. Fluent in multiple languages, he worked for the German embassy in Albania as a translator and occasionally a driver in his spare time. He also studied and became an EMT during his time in the university.
He’s always liked guns and worked hard to gain proficiency. And then some. Since coming to America, he’s become a firearms and tactics instructor. Not only does he teach basic handgun and rifle classes, he also helps teach advanced coursework, including force-on-force training. He knows his stuff and shares his extensive knowledge with others in a bid to help keep them safe.
Unfortunately his good sense failed him that day and it almost cost him dearly.
On that Friday afternoon, a black male with a black beanie cap wearing a nice, leather bomber jacket met him in the front yard. The guy had his hands in his pockets…it was cold outside. The two shook hands while Florio’s daughter remained in the car, eyes glued to her own phone, of course.
“Are you here for the iPhone X?” the guy asked.
Florio replied, “No, I’m here for the iPhone 8, man.”
“You got the money?” Mr. Craigslist asked.
“Of course. You got the phone?”
The guy didn’t have the phone Florio wanted, but said he had an iPhone X. “It’s a lot better. Come on back and I’ll show it to you.”
Florio told me that something didn’t feel right. The door to the house remained closed and looked secured and he saw no light on inside. The mailbox had mail peeking out as though it had not been checked for a day or two. With things not adding up, Florio began to turn away. “Nah, man. I’m not here for an X,” he told the man.
At that point, the supposed Craigslist seller drew a Smith snub-nose .38 revolver from his pocket. Watching the gun appear maybe three or four feet away, Florio knew he was suddenly way behind the curve. From his training and experience, he knew that drawing down against someone with a gun pointed at you is the perfect recipe for taking a bullet or three. So he left his SIG P320 in its holster.
Instead, with his left hand, he lunged at the guy’s hand and grabbed the small revolver, pushing it down and away from him. Of course, Mr. Craigslist tried to wrest back control of the gun, but Florio then grabbed it with his right hand as well, keeping it pointed safely away. While the two men struggled for control of the gun, Florio yelled for his daughter to call 9-1-1. She, however, froze in terror as she watched her dad fight for his life.
At some point, Mr. Craigslist then lamely claimed that someone tried to rob him a couple of days before, someone who looked a lot like Florio. Florio laughed at the guy’s assertion. “If I were here to rob you, I’d have brought my friends, not my daughter.”
Florio felt the front sight blade cut his fingers and knew the blood would soon make the gun too slippery to control. “I knew I needed a new plan and I needed it quick,” he told me. He stepped on the guy’s lower leg and pushed him backwards. The armed robber fell back, off balance, and nearly went down.
Florio backed up a couple of steps, drew his SIG and pointed it at the guy. “If you move, I’ll shoot you!” he barked at the guy, his verbiage cleaned up for a more family-friendly read.
The man looked over his shoulder and saw the big P320 pointed his way…the now drop-safe SIG P320 that Florio says has an even better trigger than it did before.
Fortunately for the crook, he didn’t raise his snubbie or turn to face Florio. Instead, he ran off between the houses, with all deliberate speed. Collecting himself for a moment, Florio then called the police and reported the armed robbery attempt.
Sixteen minutes later, after no cops showed up, he called again. The dispatcher said that a unit would arrive when they got to his call. He told them to go self-procreate and drove away, not wanting to wait around the area any longer for the robber to return and possibly ambush him.
Ten minutes later, a detective called and asked for Florio to come down to the station and give a report. Florio did, giving the cop all the particulars and looking at “about fifty” photos of local ne’er-do-wells. No luck.
“You know, you should have shot the mother….” the cop told Florio. Right in front of Florio’s 15-year-old daughter.
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” Florio said he told the cop. “You guys have lawyers and unions to protect you after you shoot a criminal. I don’t have any of that and don’t want to deal with the aftermath of shooting someone,” he told the cop.
With that, they shook hands and parted ways.
Two days later, on Sunday, another detective called Florio, asking for any additional details that might have been remembered since his initial interview.
“Tell me you got the guy!” Florio told the detective.
“Nope. Sorry. But we did have another guy show up to buy a laptop a few houses down a couple of hours later. He got robbed.”
Florio asked if they had a description in that case.
“That guy can’t talk. He took two to the chest and is still in intensive care right now.”
“Was it a .38?”
“Ballistics haven’t come back yet, but we’re still working the case.”
May everyone’s Christmas (or Hanukkah, as appropriate) bring nothing but good cheer and celebrations. Risking one’s life to find a bargain on Craigslist by dealing with a stranger can be a dangerous business. And even if you’re well trained and well-equipped, prudence demands not taking risks to save a few bucks.