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Shopkeeper pulls gun to fend off robbers

By Karen Ali


December 24, 2000


NEW MILFORD Ernest Ryan is known to business owners on Route 7 as the "Warden of Boardman Bridge'' because he is protective of their businesses and his own.

So it's no surprise that when two masked people came into his store, Ryan's Radio, Friday evening pointing a large single-barrel shotgun at him and misting him with pepper spray, he pulled out his own pistol and fired several shots.

"I pulled out my own gun and they took off,'' said the 79-year-old Ryan, who also lives in New Milford.

Neither he nor the police know if any of the shots hit the robbers, and apparently nothing was stolen in the 7 p.m. incident.

Ryan sells CB radios and other equipment, as he has been doing for 30-some years.

As of yesterday, police were still searching for the two suspects.

Ryan said he couldn't tell if the robbers were men or women or what race they were. Police describe them as men in dark clothing, masks and gloves.

"They were all bundled up and their faces were covered,'' he said.

Ryan was sprayed with a Macelike substance, a product he sells at his own shop.

He said he was temporarily blinded by the spray.

"I had a tough time dialing 911,'' he said.

Ryan, who was in the Navy during World War II, said he has had a gun permit for 31 years.

Though brave during the incident, he said yesterday that afterwards he was "shaking like a leaf.''

"I didn't sleep last night,'' he said.

After the attempted holdup, Ryan was taken to New Milford Hospital, where he was given a cardiogram and an exam. He said a nurse told him his blood pressure was extremely high.

"I've had break-ins before, but I never looked down the barrel of a shotgun,'' he said.

The victim fired about four rounds at the suspects as they fled from the store, crossing over Boardman Bridge, according to police.

Police were able to follow their footprints in the snow, but they had not caught the suspects as of yesterday.

Some of the patrons of nearby Tapajoz restaurant were able to provide police with clues.

Manager Sylvie Ross said that at least one customer saw someone running across the bridge. Soon, the entire restaurant, which has a good view of the bridge, was buzzing.

"It started spreading from table to table,'' Ross said.

Later police came inside the store to interview patrons about what they saw, she said.

Anyone who has information about the case or saw a vehicle stopped in the area at about 7:10 p.m. should contact the New Milford police. Contact Karen Ali at or at (203) 731-3341.

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