Did Shopowner Take 'Thou Shalt Not Steal' too Far?

The Goetz case crystallized many New Yorkers' rage at rampant crime in the city and sparked a nationwide debate on vigilantism and race.

No one has talked about race in the Blue Flame Supply Co. case.

"Race had nothing to do with it," Augusto said. "Matter of fact, I wonder where Al Sharpton is, who is always screaming about these things. You don't come around and say 'Hey Gus, you did a good job saving this black boy from these thugs and your black girl.' These are black people I risked my life to save."

Augusto said the Goetz case was different.

"I remember Goetz -- he was a vigilante," he said. "He went out, he went out there looking for trouble and he shot people after he didn't have to anymore -- it's different. It's a different situation. Once a threat is gone, you don't keep shooting them. You only do it to protect your life and the lives of the people around you. Anybody else is a vigilante, that's right."

Goetz admitted shooting the four unarmed men after they asked him for $5. He also acknowledged continuing to fire after the men were on the ground. Charged with attempted murder and assault, he was convicted only of illegal possession of a firearm.

New York 'Too Tough' on Guns?

Though Augusto is adamant he never wanted any trouble, he is a firm believer in a citizen's right to bear arms.

His gun was registered.

"I tell you -- the city of New York is too tough on gun laws," said Augusto. "You walk out of here, and if they want to rape you on the street you can't even stop them -- what are you supposed to do, say, 'Please don't'?

"But if you did that in Texas, you could have a derringer in your pocket, and when he's on top of you put it in his belly and shoot him. But here you can't do anything. The laws are too strict here.

"I think law-abiding citizens should be able to have weapons," he said. "If they commit a crime with that weapon, I think the penalty should be severe, way more severe than they are now, but they should have the right to do it.

"And if criminals thought, 'Hey, you know maybe that person's got a gun ... or maybe that person's got a gun' -- maybe nobody's got a gun. All these people understand, it's brute force. They're not afraid of police, they're not afraid of the law, only brute force."

Despite his tough talk, Augusto said he struggles every day with what he did.

"I was sick, I couldn't eat for days. But I'm sure the next time will be easier," he said. "I still feel lousy. I did the right thing. I'm telling you I'd do it again under the same circumstances, but I'll feel lousy. I feel sh***y. Oh, sorry, I feel lousy. It's very hard to kill somebody."

Augusto said his son committed suicide several years ago, and that he feels for the dead men's families.

"They've got to feel lousy, I know that," he said. "I mean, it's very painful to lose a son. But I'll tell you, the pain I felt when my son died don't compare to the pain that I felt when I had to kill those two boys. Because my son, I didn't do it to them, here, I had to do it to them. That feels worse. Until you do it, you're never gonna know that."

Augusto said he had never killed anyone before, during his time in the Coast Guard or otherwise.

"I hope I don't have to do it again," he said. "I never thought I'd have to do it this time. I came in here like I do every other day, go into work, take care of my business. I never dreamt I'd have to at the end of the day kill two people."

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