When she realized that , Michelle Horev said her instincts kicked in. From behind the cash register she’s worked for the last 18 months, the 18-year-old discretely dialed 911, then put the receiver down before joining the rest of the staff and customers on the floor where the three masked gunmen had instructed them to lie face down.
“I know that if you call the cops, even if you don’t talk to them they have to come to the location you've called from,” the teen said on Sunday morning, back at work behind the same register that had been robbed just 12 hours earlier.
Horev's cool-headed, practical response in the face of danger was typical of the evening, said a manager who declined to be named.
“As bad as it was, obviously, it could have been a lot worse,” he said over the hum of a full dining section on Sunday morning. “Nobody freaked out, no shots were fired, and most importantly, nobody was hurt.”
The manager said the gunmen, faces covered by black ski masks, entered the deli at 9:03 p.m. and demanded that everyone in the building come forward and lay face down on the floor. At this point they asked for the manager, him, to take them to the register, which he did.
"I don't even know what they looked like," he admitted. "I shut down. I didn't make eye contact."
After they had cleared out the register, which carried an undisclosed amount of cash, the robbers moved on to the customers. They instructed several of the 10 or so who were in the restaurant at the time to hand over their personal belongings; mostly cell phones and wallets.
While the manager didn't see much, Horev said she got a “good glimpse” of two of the gunmen. She observed that they were black males in their early 30s; one short, the other muscle bound, a third long and lanky.
Horev said that the gunmen left only when they saw a car pull up in the front of the restaurant, shouted “car out front, car out front,” and then retreated into the back of the restaurant and out through the rear employee exit they had used to enter.
As harrowing as the ordeal was, by Sunday it appeared to be business as usual at the deli. The kitchen was busy and the tables were full.
According to the manager, order was restored as soon as the scene was cleared by police.
“When the cops left, the guys cleaned the restaurant up, then we locked up and went home.”