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Man with gun unnerves restaurant workers

Staff calls 911, leaves

ROWLEY — Stephen Brown was taking inventory at Spud’s Restaurant and Pub when a cook rushed in from the kitchen. There is a burglar at the side door, the cook told Brown, making his hand into an L-shape around 9:15 Monday morning. He was carrying a gun and asked to talk to the manager, the cook said.

“I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m not going to talk to a burglar,’ ” Brown, the general manager, said later in the day. “Call 911.”

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Brown gathered the three cooks who were on the premises. They left an uncooked tray of bacon on the counter and walked out the front door. A Rowley police car pulled in as the employees reached the parking lot.

By then, the man had left.

Authorities were not certain whether the incident was a threat against a single person or an aborted robbery attempt. Either way, it rattled employees.

“Maybe he got cold feet,” said Detective Lieutenant Joe Gamache. He called the incident strange, but said Rowley is a small town that experiences “big city crime” on occasion.

Because of the incident, Spud’s opened an hour late Monday. The cook said the man wore a black ski or scuba diving mask, had dark-colored eyes, stood about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighed 170 pounds. The cook said the man told him that no one would be hurt, and he made no demands other than seeking to talk to Brown.

Police blocked off the entrance to a strip mall next door and directed traffic away from the restaurant, said Lynn Norloff, owner of Lynn’s Vintage flair across the street. Norloff said she saw about six police cars in the restaurant parking lot as she prepared to open her store.

“I saw the police with rifles and canines,” she said. “They were walking through the woods.”

State and Rowley police had not found the man by Monday afternoon. Authorities believe he may have fled in a blue two-toned car that employees spotted in the parking lot in the morning.

Brown said the cook had gone to a freezer when he was startled by the thud at a nearby side door. He then saw the masked figure standing outside the glass door. Before that, the man may have been inside the back area of the restaurant, police said.

Police were attempting to review surveillance footage from businesses along Route 1. Brown said the restaurant encounter was the oddest he has experienced in 15 years as general manager.

“I can’t even fathom what the guy was thinking,” Brown said. “For him to say, ‘Go get your manager,’ I’m surprised he didn’t come with him. It didn’t sound like he was an aggressive burglar.”

Faiz Siddiqui can be reached at faiz.siddiqui@globe.com.
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