The last few diners were finishing their meals at the Gumbo Shop on Sunday night when a man wandered into the popular French Quarter restaurant about 10:30 p.m.
He brushed past the wait staff, who thought he might want a quick drink, heading out to the patio and up a staircase to a second-floor office where a manager and another employee were closing out the register.
“Y’all know what this is. Give me everything,” the man said, according to the restaurant’s general manager, Gaylin McAllister.
The employees weren’t having it, though. They pounced on the man, identified by police as Benny Walker, when he couldn’t get the sawed-off shotgun he brought with him out of his pants quickly enough.
During a brief struggle, the men tumbled down the stairs and ended up back in the dining room, where two employees held the would-be robber until police arrived to arrest him.
Part of the drama was captured by a surveillance camera located in the second-floor office where the stick-up began. The rest was described in a police report.
After the two employees began trying to wrest the gun away from Walker, a third employee ran up the stairs and finally was able to snatch it away, the report says.
McAllister said the men tumbled down about a dozen stairs, across the patio and into the dining room, where some customers remained.
“He tried to get up. They just made sure he stayed down,” McAllister said.
In the meantime, the staff called 911 and tried to flag down police outside the building at 630 St. Peter St.
Cindy Dunn, visiting from Baltimore, said she was leaving dinner with friends at the nearby Tableau restaurant at Chartres and St. Peter streets when she heard a commotion down the block.
Moments later, a man dressed in a waiter’s uniform came running past her toward Jackson Square shouting, “Police! Police!”
“He was flying,” Dunn said.
McAllister said it’s not clear how Walker knew where the office was. He has never worked for the restaurant, and none of the employees could identify him.
“I’ve asked everybody,” McAllister said. “No one here knows him.”
Police regularly urge crime victims not to fight back against their attackers. But even though McAllister said it’s not something he recommends his employees do, the end result was satisfying.
“We’re very proud of our staff,” he said. “We wouldn’t normally suggest doing something like that, but he had a problem getting his weapon out and they had an opportunity to defend themselves.”
Walker remained jailed Monday on counts of armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault. Bail was set at $590,000, according to court documents.
He also was booked on a count of illegal possession of a stolen firearm.
Police said his gun had been reported stolen in Jefferson Parish. According to an arrest report, the Remington 12-gauge shotgun had five live shells and was reported stolen in February.
Walker has one prior arrest in Orleans Parish, for attempted simple robbery in January 2001. The charge was later refused, according to court records.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.