'Shut up and turn around': Frankford man recounts violent ordeal

Scene of home invasion on Sellers Street near Leiper in Frankford. (VINNY VELLA/DAILY NEWS STAFF)

IN THE DEAD OF NIGHT, he was roused awake by a tap on his shoulder.

It could have been his wife, who he knew was sleeping in a nearby bedroom with his 10-year-old grandson. Maybe it was even the kid himself.

Then he turned and saw the barrels of two 9 mm handguns staring back at him, illuminated by the glow of the TV he had nodded off watching.

The guns belonged to two masked men, who police say forced their way into the victim's home on Sellers Street near Leiper in Frankford about 3:30 a.m. yesterday.

Hours later, that 51-year-old man - who spoke with the Daily News on the condition of anonymity - recounted the ordeal at his kitchen table, an arm's length away from the glass door pane that the robbers had busted to gain entry.

After a long day at work in his job as a supervisor at a paper company, his night had come to an uneventful end: He stepped out onto his stoop to smoke one last cigarette at midnight, then ducked back into the house, locking the door behind him.

He checked in on his wife, finding her sound asleep with his grandson. Not wanting to disturb them, he retired to a separate room, where he flicked on "Counting Cars," a reality show on the History Channel, and nodded off.

The next thing he knew, he was staring down two firearms.

"They told me to 'shut up and turn around,' " he said last night. "They kept asking, 'Where's the weed?' and 'Where's the money?' "

When he told them he didn't have either, the robbers pressed him again: "You don't have any money?" they asked.

They told them that if he didn't, they'd wake up his wife.

In the other room, his wife had been startled awake by the commotion, but pretended to be asleep, he said. His grandson - who last night was still shaken by the encounter - caught a quick peek at one of the burglars.

His mind on his family's safety, the man offered up the only cash he had - about $200 that he had left in his pants pocket, money his wife had given him earlier in the day to pay their electric bill.

"You better not be lying," one of the burglars told him. He didn't need to elaborate.

The men bound him with cords and wires they had found around the house. They grabbed a nearby shirt and turned it into a gag, wrapping it tight around the man's head.

Then they went to work. He watched, seething, as they carried out his TV, his grandson's Xbox and PlayStation, and a laptop. What stung the most was seeing them swipe the sneakers he had just bought for another grandson.

As he watched, he thought about snapping through his restraints. He was angry enough to do it, he said.

"I didn't want to intimidate him," he told the People Paper. "My wife was nearby; I didn't want them to shoot my girl."

After the men left, his wife called the police, he said.

Officers showed up minutes later and freed him, according to Chief Inspector Scott Small.

The victim said that many of his neighbors have cameras - they're becoming a necessity in that neighborhood, he said. Police were canvassing the block yesterday, hoping to recover footage of the burglars in action.

Yesterday was the first time he had been robbed, he said, even counting his childhood in the "Badlands," the colloquial name for a high-drug-and-crime pocket of North Philly.

He doesn't know why he was targeted. Police also were trying to determine that last night.

One noteworthy detail, according to Small: The robbers had unscrewed the bulbs in the home's motion-sensing exterior light fixture, an indication that they were familiar with the house.

"Here, these guys aren't robbing drug dealers; they're hurting hardworking families," the victim said. He wasn't kidding: Hours after giving a statement to police, he had to report for a full shift at the paper company.

He said that he and his family were still trying to make sense of what had happened to them. But, ultimately, they're grateful that the only casualties of the night were some electronics.

"Everything they took was materialistic. It can be replaced," he said.

And he has some advice for people placed in similar situations: cooperate.

"Don't be a hero, because heroes don't live."

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