When masked bandits stormed his Las Vegas smoke shop, all Johnny Nguyen had to defend himself was a pocketknife and a bellyful of being a victim. It turned out to be enough.
Nguyen, who fended off the August 3 robbery in a heroic moment seen on viral surveillance video, told The Daily Wire in an exclusive interview what happened after he took down one of the thieves. The suspect had leapt over the counter and was coming at Nguyen when the shopkeeper fought back, stabbing him at least seven times with the pocketknife.
“’This wasn’t my idea. Please don’t let me die,’” Nguyen recounted the suspect saying as he called 911.
While Nguyen called for an ambulance, the thief, who claimed to be 17, called his mother.
“He told his mom he was dying and that he robbed a store,” Nguyen recalled.
A robber in black bloc was stabbed & subdued by an Asian-American shop keeper wearing flip flops in Las Vegas this week. The robber’s accomplice leaves his friend behind. Police are investigating the robbery & stabbing. pic.twitter.com/EJrF6syO1d
— Andy Ngô 🏳️🌈 (@MrAndyNgo) August 5, 2022
According to Nguyen, the incident began when two masked males walked into Nguyen’s Smokestrom Smoke Shop. A third suspect held the door open from outside. Nguyen, a Vietnamese-American originally from Florida, said his heart was racing despite his calm demeanor seen in the footage. In the ten months he’s been in business, the store has already been robbed twice.
“I assumed they had a firearm,” Nguyen told The Daily Wire, noting one of the suspects had a partially unzipped backpack in front of his torso.
“Why are you guys wearing masks like that?” Nguyen can be heard asking them on the video before pleading with them to “just leave.”
In the video, one bandit can be seen taking the tip jar, grabbing other items, and fleeing. But the other one leaps and jumps over the glass case toward Nguyen, who grabs the knife and defends himself.
“I’m dead! I’m dead!” the suspect can be heard shouting as he falls to the floor.
Angelica Nielson, who works at a nearby restaurant, saw and recorded some of the aftermath.
“I just saw two guys running for their lives from our shop window,” Nielson told The Daily Wire.
The suspects fled down an alley before police and an ambulance arrived. Video she recorded outside Nguyen’s smoke shop shows the robbery suspect on a gurney being wheeled into an ambulance.
Nielson said Nguyen has earned the respect of area merchants since taking over the smoke shop a little less than a year ago.
“He came over to introduce himself and asked to use our microwave,” she recalled of their first meeting. “He was so sweet.”
Las Vegas Metropolitan Police arrested two individuals, including the suspect who is expected to recover. It is not known yet if Nguyen could face charges himself, but Nielson has set up a GoFundMe campaign for any potential legal fees Nguyen could incur.
Meanwhile, Nguyen said he has bought a gun. He said he worries that publicity around the video could make him a target, even though he has actually seen a slight uptick in business. But he ultimately stood by his decision to release the surveillance video.
“Maybe the video might prevent other stores from getting robbed because robbers will think, ‘This one will fight back.’”
His advice to other small business people: “Don’t give people a chance to harm you or your store.”
Nguyen was back behind the counter the next day and says the community has been supportive. But he says his parents back in Miami are worried.
“They told me I should sell the shop, go apply for med school, and become a doctor,” Nguyen chuckled. “Very Asian.”