A masked male wielding a shotgun entered Nikiski's 4 Lands Bar & Liquor Thursday afternoon, demanding money and firing a round into the establishment's ceiling.
Alaska State Troopers responded to the scene near Mile 21 of the Kenai Spur Highway after owner Chrissy Shoenrock called 911 to report an armed robbery. Shoenrock emerged from a back room after she heard the shot go off.
"I barely had time to get out of my office and come out and he was already gone," Shoenrock said.
Shoenrock, two patrons, and bartender Julie Curry were the only other people in the bar at the time of the robbery.
Curry, who has been working at 4 Lands for three months, said the man walked into the front door and paused a moment before announcing his intentions.
"Nobody paid attention to him the first time he said, 'This is a robbery,'" recalled Curry, who thought the man was joking.
Curry said one of the patrons, Mark Souza, went so far as to ask, "Are you serious?" which angered the man, who responded, "Yeah, I'm (expletive) serious," before pumping the shotgun and firing into the ceiling.
"I thought he might shoot one of these guys right here," Curry said, pointing to where Souza and fellow patron Tom Frazier had been sitting.
She complied with the man's demand, assuring him, "OK, OK, I'm getting the money," while she grabbed cash from the register. He ordered her to place it on the bar, and when she did, he seized it, exited the building and fled on foot.
Ultimately the man walked away with $307.
"We have two registers," pointed out bartender Shannon Williams, who had been driving to work to relieve Curry from her shift and only arrived after the incident. "He wasn't smart enough to go for the other register."
Curry described the robber as a little under 6 feet tall, of medium build, and light-skinned. She also detected a very faint accent when the man spoke.
"It couldn't have lasted more than 30 seconds," said Frazier, who was watching TV when the assailant walked in.
He said the man's dark-colored mask had some sort of silvery lining around the eye and mouth openings.
Around 10 troopers and a canine unit responded; the first unit was on scene within 10 minutes. Trooper Highway Patrol Sgt. Eugene Fowler said they were canvassing the surrounding area. The shotgun and a jacket were recovered near the bar, apparently discarded by the robber.
Investigators Robert Lawson and Aaron Meyer photographed the scene, dug "what appears to be birdshot" out of the ceiling, and gathered other evidence from the area.
Shoenrock, who has been bartending at 4 Lands since 1992 and who bought the place in 1997, said she has never seen anything like this in her time there.
"Usually it's a very quiet, friendly bar," agreed Willaims. "We have a lot of regular, fun people that come in here. We never have these problems."
Shoenrock seemed more angered than shaken up after the robbery, describing herself as "thoroughly pissed off."
"Instead of calling 911, I should have run to the liquor door, opened that door, and knocked him on his ass," she fumed.
Karen Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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