A man who was drinking Wednesday at a St. Louis bar seemed completely unfazed as he stared down the barrel of a thief’s large gun during a stickup.
Instead of panicking, as the gunman waved what appeared to be an assault rifle at him, the bespectacled, middle-aged man looked straight ahead, pulled out a cigarette, lit his smoke, began puffing away, and watched videos on his cell phone while the thief emptied the cash register and roamed the establishment for money and valuables.
Police were called to Behrmann’s Tavern, a historic St. Louis watering hole in the city’s Dutchtown neighborhood, shortly after midnight on Aug. 28 after reports of a stick up, an incident report obtained by Oxygen.com stated.
“The suspect ordered everyone to the ground and took their property,” the report stated. “After the suspect removed money from the cash register, he fled the scene on foot.”
But surveillance footage shows the smoker, totally unfrazzled, sitting at the bar the moment the unidentified gunman rushed the establishment. As the gunman enters, staff and customers instantly dropped to the ground. But the smoker, who refused to descend from his barchair, didn’t even flinch as the assailant jammed his gun into the back of another customer, who quickly surrendered his wallet. Instead, the defiant customer puffed nonchalantly on a cigarette, calmly watching the robbery unfold.
At one point, the gunman tries to grab the patron's cell phone from his hand, but gives up after the man refused to let go.
“He’s got balls of steel,” Thomas Kimack, 58, Behrmann’s co-owner, told Oxygen.com.
Eight people were inside the hazy bar at the time of the robbery. Six people had belongings stolen, but no one was hurt, the Wichita Eagle reported. Kimack wasn’t present during the holdup.
The St. Louis bar owner, whose family has run Behrmann’s since the mid-80s, said he knows the smoker only as Tony, but described him as a loyal customer. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kimack said the robbery hasn’t deterred Tony from returning to his usual haunt.
“He’s been in here every night since,” Kimack added.
Dustin Krueger, 40, a Behrmann’s bartender, who was on shift when the gunman entered the tavern, was startled when the smoker resisted the bandit.
"All I was thinking was, 'Man, he's going to get everybody shot,'" Krueger told Oxygen.com.
"As soon as a guy walked in with a gun, he was like, 'Whatever, you're going to shoot me or you're not, and I'm going to sit here, and enjoy my beer, and have a cigarette while you're doing it.'"
Krueger said the stunt elevated the 56-year-old denizen to cult hero status throughout the city.
"That man can drink for free in about any bar in St. Louis," Krueger said. "He's the talk of the town. There's not many people that would do that."
Authorities, who have arrested a person of interest, haven’t yet identified the suspect.
“A suspect was taken into custody although warrants have not yet been issued,” Jack Wang, a public information supervisor for the St. Louis Police Department, told Oxygen.com.
Wang, who declined to comment further, noted that the investigation is ongoing.
Kimack and Krueger said they were going to a St. Louis police station on Friday afternoon to see if they could assist investigators in identifying the individual in custody.
"I have a firm memory of exactly what he looks like," Krueger said. "It was probably his first robbery, he had no idea what he was doing."
St. Louis Police were unable to confirm the amount of stolen cash, but the Eagle reported it was around $300.
“I was angry as hell, kinda felt violated a bit,” Kimack said of the heist. “I was shocked.”
Kimack, whose father began working at the bar in the 1970s, said the surrounding southside St. Louis neighborhood has declined in recent years.
“We haven't had a robbery here since 1982 or 1983,” he said. “The neighborhood’s getting worse and worse and worse.”
Behrmann’s, which is reportedly the second-oldest bar in St. Louis, was opened in 1936.
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxygen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.