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Police look for bar robber

Police in Altoona continue to look for a robber who was disarmed by a bartender and pistol whipped with his or her own gun.

“They definitely picked the wrong bar at the wrong time,” said Altoona police Sgt. Matthew Plummer of the man or woman who walked into Ajay’s Bar and Grill at 2901 Maple Ave. early Monday with a handgun and demanded cash.

Police released video camera footage from the bar on Tuesday that showed the robber, whose face was covered, order the bartender to the till. The bartender can be seen handing money to the robber before suddenly grabbing the gun.

Police said the bartender, a retired Marine combat veteran, struggled on the floor with the robber for four minutes before gaining control by striking the masked robber on the face and head with the gun.

The third time the bartender hit the robber with the gun — a 9 mm Glock 19 — it fired, sending a bullet up through a table-top and into the ceiling. Neither the robber or the bartender were shot.

The bartender held the robber at gunpoint but when he opened the front door to yell outside for someone to call 911, the robber got up off the floor and ran out a side door. Police noted that the robber appeared dazed when he or she fled the bar. Police said the robber ran from the bar and crossed Maple Avenue.

Plummer noted that police were already on their way to the bar after a 911 call at 12:59 a.m. Monday, and as officers were enroute, they were informed by a dispatcher that a shot had been fired.

Police said it can’t be ruled out that the robber was a woman. The robber is described as a light-skinned black male or female who likely has obvious facial injuries due to being struck by the handgun.

Plummer said the robber, who stands about 5’6″ tall, was wearing a blue winter jacket, sweatpants and a gray and red plaid scarf. He added that the scarf covered most of the robber’s face and stayed in place during the struggle. The robber’s hair appeared to have been recently braided.

The bartender, whose name was not released and who asked not to be identified, was not injured.

Plummer said the gun that police recovered at the scene had been stolen from a vehicle a block away from the bar about two months ago. He added that investigators also recovered the round from the ceiling, along with “plenty of blood and hair” evidence.

Plummer said that anyone who sees someone who fits the description of the robber with facial injuries should call 911 immediately.

It’s the second armed robbery in Altoona in the past week. The Sunoco at 1700 Seventh Ave. was hit by an armed robber on Dec. 11, with $600 stolen.

Whether there is a connection between the two robberies remains part of the ongoing investigation, Plummer said.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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