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— One would-be robber encountered more than he bargained for when he walked into Smith Drug Store on East Third Street in Gentry and demanded narcotic drugs.

According to Gentry police, a man entered the pharmacy Thursday afternoon with a note, demanding all the store's OxyContin (oxycodone) - a narcotic pain relief medication of a synthesized opiate base.

The robber claimed he had a gun and would use it if store employees did not comply with his request, Stephen Smith, pharmacist and owner of the business, said. The man also said he would kill anyone trying to follow him out of the store.

The few minutes the man was in the store were nervous ones for Smith and his employees. The man was becoming impatient when Smith and his employees did not immediately comply.

Smith said he was thinking: "What am I going to do here? If this guy walks out of here with something now, he or someone else will come back in the same way and try this again."

Smith has been a pharmacist in Gentry for 30 years and has never encountered anything like this before.

"People here have been good to me," Smith said.

What happened next may have been a surprise to everyone. Smith stepped away from the counter, retrieved a shotgun and leveled it at the robber.

"His eyes got big," Smith said, "and he hit the front door."

Smith ordered his employees to get down on the floor in case the man returned and then went out the door to make sure the robber was gone - and he was nowhere to be found. Employees inside called the police.

No one was injured in the robbery attempt and the man fled the store empty-handed and on foot, though police say he may have had a vehicle nearby.

Police quickly set up a perimeter and were searching in nearby fields and buildings and watching roads in the area shortly after they received the call. They ended the search as darkness approached.

The thought of what could have happened has crossed Smith's mind since the robbery attempt, but his actions prevented, not only the robbery, but any injury to himself or his employees. Smith would have much rather had the police come and deal with the man, but having the police outside with an armed man inside could have led to a hostage situation - and the man was becoming impatient.

Store employees were thankful for Smith's response, "We're proud of him," they said.

Police are still looking for the would-be robber and following up on leads in the case. The man has been described as in his mid to late 20s, about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, of a thin build, with light-colored hair and clean shaven. He was wearing a green-colored stocking or skull cap - but not pulled over his face - and a green-colored army-type jacket during the robbery attempt.

Police did recover the note, demanding the drugs.

Anyone with information about the robbery attempt is urged to call the Gentry Police Department at 736-8400. Callers can remain anonymous.

News, Pages 1, 2 on 09/30/2009

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