With the increase in pharmacy robberies and burglaries in recent years, every pharmacist wonders how they will handle a robbery situation when they are faced with it.
In one recent case, Don Zimmerman, 75, pharmacist and co-owner of Purdy Cost Less Pharmacy in Gig Harbor, W.A., tackled a masked robber. The 21-year-old male was attempting to steal a bottle of cough syrup containing codeine.
"He's trying to gouge my eyes, but I don't feel it because I got a case of adrenaline," Zimmerman tells K5 News. "Pretty soon I said, 'is there any men out in the store?' Well, three guys come back and believe it or not they are almost my age. So, we got the geriatric group going up against this young guy."
When law enforcement arrived, they found the suspect — who had a plastic toy revolver — pinned to the floor with two men holding his arms behind his back.
Fortunately, in this case, the pharmacist and pharmacy staff were not harmed — except for a few “knicks”, according to Zimmerman. Law enforcement experts, however, tell pharmacy staff not to take matters into their own hands when faced with an armed robber.
“You need to set the price higher for your personal safety rather than any object,” Richard Logan, PharmD, owner of L&S Pharmacy in Charleston, M.O., and a recently-retired sheriff’s deputy, tells Drug Topics. “The primary concern is getting everyone out of the pharmacy with no harm to anyone.”
The best thing pharmacists can do to prepare for pharmacy robberies is to have a plan in place, “and you need to convey that plan to all the pharmacy staff,” Logan says.
However, there is no way to truly prepare for an armed robbery or to know how you will handle various scenarios in the moment, according to Logan. “You have to try to think different scenarios through. Most often, if you just comply with what they want and get them out of there [they won’t attack you].”
“These decisions have to be made in real time; that’s why you have a plan in place,” Logan adds.
Instead of tackling or fighting the suspect, pharmacists and pharmacy staff may want to press a panic button that notifies police and get a good description of the robber to share with law enforcement, Logan says.
Logan also advises pharmacists not to arm themselves, unless they are “trained, practiced, and able to look someone in the eye and take their life. When anyone pulls out a weapon, the conversation is over. You are in a life and death situation at that point.”