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Shop owner who killed robber had been shot before

Originally ran here as:
"Shop owner who shot robber had been victim of previous shooting"
by Juan Ozuna, The Monitor
The Brownsville Herald
May 10, 2002

McALLEN, TEXAS -- Sitting behind a glass counter that held gold pieces, silver coins and antique watches in his shop, Harold Falknor said Thursday that he could not eat nor sleep after fatally shooting a 36-year-old hold-up man the day before.

The 64-year-old coin shop proprietor who Wednesday shot to death a fleeing robbery suspect in front of his store said partial motivation for his actions came only because he's been held up before and survived being shot during that previous robbery of La Casa Coin Co.

"If a person cannot defend himself in this world, it's not worth living in," he said.

Falknor recounted how 12 years ago three "white Aryan Nation people" entered his store, which was then located near 10th and Pecan Street, and robbed him at gunpoint.

After collecting their loot, they ordered him to lie face down on the floor. They then shot him in the head with a .22-caliber gun above his right ear, fracturing his mastoid bone, he said.

"The bullet went through and into the floor," he said, recalling a hole that remained in the floor of his shop after the incident.

He said doctors could not explain how he lived through the trauma, other that that he was lucky. Falknor said jokingly that the reason for his survival could have been his "hard, German head."

Joking aside, the events of 12 years ago caused him to install an electronic lock on that shop's front door so he could screen customers before they entered, he said.

But the front door of his shop at 104 N. 10th St., which he moved to just last year, only uses a standard bolt lock, which remained open for customers Thursday afternoon.

"The first thing I thought (Wednesday), I said to myself,  Oh, no, not again. This can't be happening again,'" he said. "I feared for my life like I never feared before."

Falknor said the hold-up man had come into the store approximately 30 minutes before the shooting to inquire about the price of gold pesos.

After some haggling over the deal, the man left, only to return soon afterward with a handgun, Falknor said.

"He put the gun to my head and said in Spanish that he was going to shoot me in the groin and take everything in my back room," Falknor recounted. "He parked right here in front and I knew he was going to book it."

After the man fled the shop, Falknor said he went to find his .38 Police Special -- a gun he has kept within his places of business for more than 30 years -- from behind a shelf. Then he followed the perpetrator into the parking lot.

"I wasn't thinking anything, really. I should have felt relieved that I was still alive, but I just followed him out and shot him," he said.

Watching the getaway van reverse out of its parking space, Falknor said he saw the man stop his vehicle and reach down between his legs, as if for a gun. He said it was that move that changed his aim from the van's tires to the robber himself -- a deed he isn't proud of.

"You can't take a man's life just like that. But I had no idea it was going to come down to something like this -- you don't preplan this," he said.

Released by police about four hours after the midday shooting with no charges against him, Falknor said he has since received "over 1,000 phone calls" from concerned residents and business owners, most of whom are well-wishers.

Sitting in the shop Thursday were plants that had been sent over by friends, one of which sported an American flag.

"I don't know who gets the idea that I'm in the wrong -- I know there's a dead person out there and I feel very sorry about that -- but once you pull the trigger, that's it, there's no turning back," he said. "The reason I'm sitting here right now is because they found the stolen goods and three guns in his van."

Police confirmed Thursday that they had found evidence in the van which corroborated Falknor's account of the robbery, but would not confirm that they had found three guns in the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Falknor said La Casa Coin would continue to be open for business, with only an alarm for security until he gets his gun back from police.

Fear of another attack still affects him, he said, but financial constraints force him to keep going.

"If they want to rob somebody, they're going to rob somebody," he said. "But I'm pinching. I have to make a living."


Paul Binz, managing editor of The Monitor, contributed to this report.

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