NEW YORK — The sidewalk outside the Harlem store still was smeared with blood Friday, and the glass on the door still was blown out.
Above the entrance, someone had scribbled the words, "Abandon hope all ye who enter here."
Less than 24 hours after a deadly showdown at the shop worthy of a Clint Eastwood script, Charles "Gus" Augusto Jr. entered his store — oblivious of the inscription taken from Dante's "Inferno."
The 72-year-old wholesaler of commercial restaurant equipment had been up all night, questioned by police about how he'd drawn a shotgun and killed two of four armed robbery suspects who entered his Kaplan Brothers Blue Flame store Thursday afternoon.
Two of the young men died on the street. Two remained hospitalized in stable condition with gunshot wounds.
'Where's the money?'
When they walked in at about 3 p.m. and confronted Augusto with guns, "I didn't want to shoot them," he said, sitting bleary-eyed in his dusty, windowless warehouse, with a fly swatter hanging above his head.
He said the bandits drew their handguns, yelling, "Where's the money? Where's the money?"
They pistol-whipped a worker and waved a weapon at a cashier's face, he said.
"There is no money," Augusto said he told them. "Go home."
Stashed away nearby was the 12-gauge shotgun he bought decades ago and said he had never used since a test-fire. He reached for it when he sensed one of the men was about to shoot, and pulled the trigger once.
"I hoped after the first shot they would go away," he said.
When they didn't, continuing to menace his employees, he fired again, and again.
Police said one of the men collapsed and died outside the door, just feet from a Baptist church.
"He died in the hands of God," said a neighborhood resident, Vincent Gayle, pointing to the blood-spattered pavement by the church. "But what goes around comes around."
Trail of blood
Another fatally wounded suspect managed to cross the street, leaving a trail of blood before he collapsed. He was later pronounced dead at the hospital, police said.
More blood led police to the other two suspects, who were arrested and taken to the hospital. Charges against them were pending.
Police said Augusto didn't have a required permit for the weapon used in the headline-grabbing shooting the Daily News called a "Pump-Action Ending."
But he was a victim, police said, and no charges had been filed on Friday.
"I'd rather not have done it," Augusto said, "and I'm sad for those mothers who have no sons."
On Friday, pedestrians were still sidestepping pools of blood along Augusto's block on West 125th Street, a short walk from Bill Clinton's Harlem office.
Reactions to the shooting were mixed.
Frida Rodriguez called it "a sad day" for the neighborhood.
Augusto "was defending his work, his business, so you could perceive that as being heroic," she said. "But on the other hand, these kids died."
The shopkeeper was coy when asked whether, with his shotgun confiscated, he had a backup.
"I'm not going to tell you that," he said.
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