ST. LOUIS • Shortly before 11 p.m. Tuesday, Billie Wilson slipped on a jacket and said her goodbyes at Pooh’s Corner tavern in the Carondelet neighborhood.
Then, the front door swung open and three men barged in.
“The guy in front held up a black pistol and yelled, ‘Get down,’” Wilson, 49, said Saturday, trembling as she recounted the experience.
Then the shooting started.
Wilson’s friend Diana Lawrence, 63, was shot in the back of the head as the robbery attempt turned into a gunfight.
Lawrence died on Wednesday.
A former city police officer who shot one of the robbers was among five wounded in the melee.
Two of the wounded were trying to hold up the bar at 6023 Virginia Avenue that has been a hangout for off-duty and retired cops for decades.
Prosecutors charged Derreaun Davis, 20, of the 5700 block of Goodfellow Boulevard, and Corey R. Wade, 29, of the 4500 block of Davison Avenue, with assault, robbery and armed criminal action.
Charges are expected to be upgraded to murder. A judge ordered them held without bail.
Davis was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Wade was hospitalized in critical condition. A third suspect is being sought.
On Saturday afternoon, the bar played host to a fundraiser to pay for Lawrence’s funeral and burial.
Bar owner Leonard “Skippy” King turned a chair upside down and set it on top of the second table on the left to mark Lawrence’s usual seat.
Patrons filled it with mementos, including a snowman to mark the victim’s love of Christmas, a light beer and a shot of root beer schnapps, her favorite drink.
A sister, Mary Kay Rapa, 48, of Florissant, recalled Lawrence as a cheerful woman who easily made friends.
“The men who did this killed a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and a friend to so many people,” Rapa said.
A granddaughter, Kristin Lombardo, 22, recalled warning Lawrence to steer clear of the bar.
“I knew this neighborhood wasn’t the safest, but my grandma said, ‘Oh, honey, there’s nothing but cops here,’” Lombardo said.
Pooh’s opened in 1990. It is ostensibly named after a former owner, but customers long ago turned the name into an acronym for “Police Officers Official Hiding Spot.”
It may be that the bar’s reputation as a cop hangout is too well hidden, at least from some criminals.
Armed robbers have targeted the place three times since 1995. In each attempt, holdup men got shot.
Tuesday’s incident was the bloodiest.
On Saturday, Wilson recounted the deadly fusillade.
“Diana and I had just finished a video bowling game and we gave each other high-fives and said, ‘We suck at bowling.’”
“I told her I’d see her tomorrow and got ready to leave,” Wilson said.
She said the first robber who came through the door stared directly at her.
“He looked me right in the eyes. I was trying to help a handicapped friend get a jacket on, and this guy started screaming for everyone to get on the floor. He fired that shot and then they kept shooting and shooting and shooting.
“I looked over where Diana was sitting and she was laying facedown on the floor. I turned her over and said, ‘Give me some towels!’
“I said, ‘Hang on, Diana. Don’t leave me.’”
Wilson said her disabled friend had been unable to get on the floor and was shot in the leg and buttocks.
She displayed a jacket belonging to the man. It was riddled with bullet holes.
“How he only got hit twice is a miracle,” Wilson said.
That friend was treated at a hospital and released.
Another victim was shot in the ankle. He remained hospitalized on Saturday but is expected to recover, friends at the bar said.
Wilson escaped physical injury. But Tuesday night’s images haunt her.
“I can still see that robber’s eyes. I can still hear those shots. I can still see Diana laying in her blood,” she said. “I will never forget it.”