ColorWheel Gallery talks down potential robber

Eileen Espinosa was alone at the ColorWheel Gallery July 20 when a man placed a small gun on the counter and told her to open the register.

“I said, ‘This is a small shop, and this is my daughter’s business, and she doesn’t have much in there,’” Espinosa said.

The man told her again to open the register. She said no. He’d have to shoot her first, she said, and restaurant patrons outside would notice, and he’d be caught.

“I just got done beating my fourth time with cancer, and I’ll be damned if I let you rob my daughter,” she said. “Is it really worth it?”

So the man asked if she could simply help him out with some money.

“Not when you pull a gun on me,” she said.

The man became increasingly nervous and asked if the store had a back door. Espinosa let him run out the back, and then her knees buckled. She laughed to see a jar of bills sitting untouched on the counter, collecting money for local causes.

“I think it was the mama bear in me,” she said. “…Mama bears always stand in front of guns.”

The family doesn’t necessarily recommend this approach, however, and ColorWheel owner Tammy Ortegon cautioned everyone to stay safe. Espinosa was shaken after the man left, and Ortegon is very thankful she is okay.

“I think it’s really powerful. That’s the thing about humanity,” Ortegon said. “Everybody loves to put everybody in a box. But it’s just another person making a really bad mistake right now.”

The women alerted neighbors to the man’s description: a white man in his late 20s with dark and long dreaded hair, a heavy dark mustache, red t-shirt, cross earring in his left ear and a nervous demeanor.