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Former mayor in his 70s recalls day he turned tables on robber who entered his pharmacy and pointed gun in his face


'I neutralized the situation, I guess you'd say'

Image source: YouTube screenshot

Charlie Smithgall — former mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania — told WGAL-TV he still plays out the terrifying incident from last fall "over and over again" in his mind.

On Oct. 23, Smithgall heard screaming as he was behind the counter in the pharmacy that's been in his family for three generations, the station said.

"A guy came through the back room, totally dressed in black, taller than I was, and he was screaming for [oxycodone] and he held 9-millimeter about six inches from my nose," Smithgall told WGAL.

The suspect, Brandon Galette, also pointed his stolen gun at people inside the pharmacy and grabbed a woman and threw her to the ground, WGAL reported in a story just after the incident.

'I neutralized the situation, I guess you'd say'

Court papers said Smithgall grabbed his own gun and fired four shots at Galette, hitting him in the abdomen, the station said.

"He looked left, and I neutralized the situation, I guess you'd say," Smithgall recalled to WGAL.

Yeah, something like that — not to mention that Smithgall, who's in his 70s, wrestled on the "blood-soaked floor" with his attacker, who's in his 20s, the station said.

"I was on the ground, and he was on top of me," Smithgall recalled to WGAL. "I didn't want him to get that pistol, because I was pretty sure there was one round in it yet."

Galette fled the scene but was captured a block away, the station reported.

The station said Smithgall possesses one of the largest cannon and firearms collections in the world — which have been featured in movies — but the October incident was the first time he shot a person, and he struggles with it.

Twist of fate

Smithgall and the suspect were rushed to the emergency room at Lancaster General Hospital, the station said, where things took an unexpected — and dire — twist for the former mayor.

X-rays were taken of Smithgall's hip, which was severely bruised, WGAL reported.

The good news? No broken hip. The bad news? Cancer.

A mass was found on Smithgall's right kidney, the station said.

"Normally if you have kidney cancer, you discover it when it's too late," he told WGAL.

Smithgall lost half of his kidney in an operation in Philadelphia and has been in and out of the hospital with an infection, the station said — but one can only wonder what may have ultimately happened regarding his cancer had Smithgall not been injured in the attempted robbery.

"You never know what's going to happen," he told WGAL, adding that "things happen for other reasons, and I guess this was a reason a higher power put down on me."

As for Galette, the criminal complaint said he was charged with robbery, criminal conspiracy, theft by unlawful taking or disposition, aggravated assault, two counts of persons not to possess/use a firearm, two counts of carrying a firearm without a license, receiving stolen property, and multiple counts of simple assault, WHP-TV reported. Three others also were arrested in connection with the incident, WHP added in a separate story.

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