Starbucks fired two baristas who stopped an armed robbery at a downtown St. Louis location. The robbery took place last month at a location that is notorious for crime and violence. At around 12 noon, two masked gunmen barged their way into the Starbucks and ordered everyone to get on the ground. One of the gunmen approached 20-year-old Michael Harrison at the cash register and ordered him to empty it. Unfortunately, Harrison did not have the credentials necessary to open the register on the spot. He asked his manager, who was on the ground per the robber’s request, to get up and help him open it. The manager was frozen with fear and did not get up.
The robber became impatient with Michael’s inability to open the register, so he decided to “pistol whip” him. Michael’s coworker noticed that a piece of the gun had broken off after the robber hit him with it. This alerted him to the possibility of the gun being fake. The coworker got off the ground and rushed the robbers with Michael’s help. The barista tag team was able to fight the crooks off. One of the men, the person who hit Michael with the “gun,” was apprehended by police on the spot. The other criminal fled but was captured later at a different location.
Michael and his coworker were initially put on paid leave. After the local media firestorm behind the incident died down, both baristas were informed that they were fired for violating the company policy of “de-escalation” during a criminal event. Michael (and his lawyer) maintain that this was simply a case of self-defense after the robber hit him in the head with what was thought to be a gun. Everything was done to comply with the robber’s orders, but that did not prevent the assault from taking place. Everything after the assault was purely self-preservation, not an attempt to become a hero, specifically for Starbucks.