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'I'm not going to die here' – Detective recounts life-death struggle with robber at bar

'I'm not going to die here' – Detective recounts life-death struggle with robber at bar

This story was originally published on Nov. 30, 1995

Bob Siscel had a cut on his forehead and a headache Wednesday but he realized things could be a lot worse.

Siscel, a St. Louis police narcotics detective, was struck in the forehead with the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun as he wrestled early Tuesday with a robber at Pooh's Corner tavern, 6023 Virginia Avenue. Siscel, who was off duty at the time, pulled his service pistol from his jacket and fatally shot the robber, Anthony Bickell, 18. An 18-year police veteran, Siscel, 42, said he had reacted instinctively when he grabbed the barrel of Bickell's shotgun.

"In my mind, I did the right thing, " he said.

"At first, I thought it was a joke when I heard somebody mention a robbery, but I turned around on the stool and the shotgun barrel was pointed right at me, " he said Wednesday.

"I don't like guns pointed at me. It was a reflex, I guess, in grabbing it. I told myself, `I'm not going to die here.' "

During the struggle, the shotgun fired, wounding Siscel's brother, Joe, who is a University City police officer, and two other patrons at the bar. None was seriously hurt, and all have been released from hospitals.

While waiting for an ambulance, minutes after the incident, Bob Siscel said he had been struck by a terrible realization. "This could have been another Cousin Hugo's, " he said.

"My brother Joe said he was thinking of Cousin Hugo's the whole time."

Two people, one of them a Crestwood police officer, were murdered and two other people wounded by robbers at Cousin Hugo's tavern in Maplewood in 1972. A story about some of the killers being eligible for parole was printed in Monday's Post-Dispatch, so the incident was fresh in the Siscel brothers' minds.

Bob Siscel had worked the 3-to-11 shift Monday night and had been in the bar less than an hour when two robbers rushed in the front door about 12:30 a.m.

The second robber fled when Siscel and Bickell began fighting.

Homicide detectives said Wednesday that they did not know the identity of the second robber. They also said there might have been a third participant - the driver of a getaway car that may have been Bickell's.

Bickell's car later was found at the corner of Fillmore Street and Idaho Avenue near the robbery scene. Bickell lived in the 6600 block of Idaho.

Detectives said Bickell might have committed the robbery to come up with $300 he needed to attend a convention in Atlanta of air-filtration system salespeople. Until recently, Bickell sold such systems, police said.

Investigators also learned Bickell had belonged to a gang known as the Carondelet Mafia Gangster Bloods. Bickell's parents turned over to police several photographs of their son that show his gang involvement. They declined to talk with a reporter.

In one photo, Bickell is wearing a ski mask and is holding an assault rifle. In another, he is talking on the telephone and holding a large pistol in his other hand. In several photos, he is flashing gang signs with other young men.

"His family knew of the gang involvement, but there was really nothing they could do about it, " said Homicide Sgt. Ray Ghrist.

Several of Bickell's friends interviewed by police Wednesday were polite in their answers and claimed they no longer were involved with the gang, Ghrist added.

The police department is investigating the fatal shooting; that type of investigation is routine. But police said Siscel had acted appropriately.

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