By TIM HATHAWAY
At about 11a on December 10 a Monday morning Charlie Williams opened his music store, Ponceno Records, and then went across Shrewsbury Avenue for a cup of coffee.
When he returned, two hooded men entered behind him and locked the door.
One of them raided the cash register while the other held a knife to Williams’ throat. Then they turned their attention to the safe.
Williams gave them the combination and told them they needed a key as well to open it. But, flustered and panicked, they didn’t use the key, he says. When the safe wouldn’t open, they stabbed him twice, once in the arm and once in the side, leaving a deep gash.
Williams again told them again to use the key. They did, and after they’d cleaned out the safe, they gagged and bound him by the hands and feet with duct tape and put him in the back office.
Williams waited a few moments, and when he didn’t hear a sound beyond the office door, attempted to stand up and flee, but fell over into the door with a thud. To his surprise, the intruders were still in the store, quietly looting the jewelry case. One of the men opened the door and lunged at Williams with his knife. Williams raised his bound hands in defense and caught the blade in his right wrist. The attacker closed the door.
Williams lay on the floor bleeding and in pain until he heard the attackers scamper out the rear exit.
Williams then managed to partially free himself from the duct tape and exit the building, leaving a blood trail on the sidewalk. An employee at the business next door, Golf Greens Fore U, called emergency services, and Williams was taken to Riverview Medical Center, where he was treated for his wounds. The stab to his gut had nicked his liver, he says, but wasn’t life-threatening.
Meanwhile, within minutes of getting the call, Red Bank police had quickly captured the two suspects as well as two other men believed to have been in on the robbery as they got into a cab at the train station, just around the corner.
Six weeks later, Williams has mostly recovered. He’s regained about 75 percent strength in his injured right wrist. For the most part, he and his wife, Evelyn, are back to their normal routine.
But of course, it feels anything but normal to them.
“Everything is just really different now,” says Evelyn, originally from Puerto Rico. “You look over your shoulder, and when you see people come in, you wonder who they are, what they’re going to do.”
The couple declined to be photographed for this article.
Will they stay in Red Bank?
Williams, a Jamaican immigrant, has been doing business in Red Bank for 20 years. Ponceno’s Records was originally on the west side of Shrewsbury Ave., but he moved it when he bought the building he is in now in 2000. He rents out apartments upstairs. He’s a co-owner of Golf Greens Fore U, which he says has over 100 employees nationwide.
“I don’t want to leave,” Williams says. “I know how to make money here. I don’t want to start all over.”
Still, life has been altered. He looks out the large front window of his store, and with his injured hand, points to at least three other shops along Shrewsbury Avenue he says have been robbed.
“You look at life different,” he says. “You don’t know who to trust.”