By Dan Nienaber
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — George Mocol suspected something was up when he saw a man he didn’t recognize lingering in an alley outside his North Broad Street neighborhood grocery Wednesday night.
It was about 9:15 p.m. and colder than a penguin’s patooty. So Mocol wondered why the guy would be hanging around — until the man bolted toward him, jumped him and tried to steal his money bag.
“I fought him off,” Mocol said. “I punched him a couple times, but it was more of a wrestling match than anything. He kept grabbing for my bag and I kept pushing him away.”
Eventually Mocol’s brothers, Greg and Tom, and a store employee came outside to help. At that point another man the Mocols recognized as a customer, 18-year-old Shaquille Deandre McNair of Mankato, stepped out and “pretended to be a mediator,” George Mocol said.
McNair was arrested and brought to jail early Thursday morning because investigators suspect he was involved in the robbery. The other man, who police suspect was 22-year-old Gilbert Paul Neal of Chicago, ran away.
Neal, who also goes by the name Chaynce (pronounced “Chance”), has been staying with acquaintances he knows in Mankato for awhile. Officers thought they had found him Thursday so investigators waited until Friday to release information about the robbery, said Det. Cmdr. Matt DuRose of the Mankato Department of Public Safety.
“He knows people from Chicago now living in the Mankato area,” DuRose said. “He’s aware that we’re looking for him.”
DuRose described Neal as being black with an average build and about 6 feet tall. It’s possible he has left the area, but he does have several local acquaintances. DuRose reminded them that they could face criminal charges if Neal is caught with them.
After George Mocol put up a fight, the man who jumped him claimed to have a gun, but no gun was found and Mocol said he never saw a gun.
At one point Mocol did think the man had the bag, so he chased the guy a few blocks before he got away. Police found the bag, one of the guy’s shoes and a cellphone when they searched the area outside the store, Mocol said. The handles had been ripped off the bag, but nothing was missing.
There have been other incidents at the neighborhood store that is kept busy by regular customers who stop in for everything from frozen chicken wings to a can of powdered cocoa to a pack of smokes and a candy bar. But George Mocol said this is the first time he has been jumped by a would-be robber.
“We’ve never had much of a problem,” he said. “Like I told the police, if you’re around long enough, stuff just happens.”
McNair remains in the Blue Earth County Jail. He and Neal have been charged with second-degree aggravated robbery.