A Dallas mother says she was “hysterical” when she watched a robber put a gun to her son’s head and threaten his life.
“I mean, it’s one thing to threaten me, but to threaten my child?” Jennifer Gonzales said Thursday, still visibly upset nearly three weeks after an unidentified masked man snuck through the open back door of Faulkner’s Cleaners, in the 3400 block of Greenville Avenue, and pressed a gun to the head of her son, Ray Gonzales.
“I felt someone grab my shoulder. And I looked up and he had a gun to my head,” said Ray, 11, when asked how he first realized he was in danger. “He said, ‘Don’t say nothing.’”
The boy, out of school on summer break, went to work with his mom that morning and was sitting on a chair in the back of the business when the man snuck up behind him.
Jennifer Gonzales told NBCDFW she turned around from the cash register area up front and, at first, did not believe what she was seeing could be true.
“He had the gun to his head and we stood there staring at each other,” she said about her reaction, as well as those of the gunman and her son. “And then he was like, ‘Just tell me where your safe is.’”
Jennifer Gonzales said she explained that the dry cleaner business does not have a safe – which is does not – but that the man, who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a white bandana across his face, repeatedly refused to believe her.
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Their standoff, which seemed to last for minutes, Jennifer Gonzales said, was interrupted when a customer came through the front door.
“[The robber] saw the customer coming in, so he pulled my son to the side and held him [out of sight] and had his hand on his shoulder…with a gun to his head. And he said, ‘Get rid of him,’” Gonzales recalled.
So against her better nature, she said she went to the front to handle the customer’s dry cleaning drop off.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Jennifer Gonzales said. “I wanted to scream, ‘Help!’ But the guy is standing there with a gun to my son’s head.”
The customer, a regular who lives near the shop, noticed she was not her usual, cheerful self.
“He knew something was wrong. He asked me, he said, ‘Are you okay? Is everything okay?’ And I didn’t, I wanted to scream for help. But I was terrified, so I just said, ‘Yeah, everything is fine. Just have a good day,’ trying to get him out of the store,” Jennifer Gonzales recalled.
Once the customer left, Jennifer Gonzales said the man came to the front of the store and demanded money from the cash register.
She handed over what was inside – approximately $50 in bills and coins – before the man proceeded to march the mother and son toward the back bathroom.
On the way, the man apparently sensed the mother’s fear.
“He said, ‘I don’t want to hurt you, ma’am. I just want to feed my family, too,’” she said the man told her.
When the trio reached the tiny employee bathroom, he ordered the mother and son inside, Jennifer Gonzales said.
“And he said, ‘Wait five minutes or I’m gonna kill you,’” she recalled.
Jennifer Gonzales and her son waited in the bathroom for several minutes, she said, while she heard the man rummaging around the back of the store, presumably looking for the nonexistent safe, before he left and they were able to call 911.
In the days that have followed, Jennifer Gonzales said it has been difficult for her and her son to feel comfortable in crowds and in the store where she has worked for years.
She said the owners of Faulkner’s Cleaners have been wonderful to her family and supportive during this trying time.
Her mind was put at great ease late last week when, she said, a Dallas police detective called her to say that officers had arrested the suspect – whose name the detective did not provide.
The detective told her the suspect was wanted for several other, similar crimes in the city, she said.
Looking back, Jennifer Gonzales said she and her son were lucky.
And Ray said the robber was lucky, too, because the soon-to-be sixth-grader did not give in to his biggest urge during the ordeal.
“I wanted to punch him in the face,” the 11-year-old told NBCDFW. “Because he made my mom cry.”