Now, unlike most self-defense stories that we cover here at Bearing Arms, the only person who had a gun in this encounter was the armed robber. Well, at least that was the case until the armed robber dropped his gun and Subway sandwich artist Araceli Sotelo picked it up.
Sotelo was working alone in a Subway restaurant in Rockford, Illinois a few days ago when a man walked up to the counter and threatened her with a pistol.
“He kind of just showed me his gun, and I was like freaking out,” she told WTVO. “[He said] ‘give me all the money … give me everything before I hurt you,’” she recalled of the terrifying confrontation.
After at least a minute of pleading with her attacker, Sotelo finally struck back — hitting and pushing him and trying to get him in a standing headlock, the footage showed.
“He was smaller than me, so I have that advantage … I could at least put my weight on him, push him, or something,” Sotelo told the local station.
During the struggle, Sotelo’s purse fell to the ground — as did the robber’s handgun.
The sandwich-shop worker quickly grabbed the weapon, pointing it away for safety — but using it to smack the robber at least once in the head, which was covered in a black hood.
“He dropped it trying to hold onto my purse, and I end up pulling his sweatshirt off him,” she told WTVO, saying she wanted him to show his face for the security cameras.
That’s pretty smart. I give Sotelo credit for refusing to be a victim and fighting back, but apparently her boss feels differently. In fact, Sotelo she says she was suspended from work for defending herself.
“I was kind of like, I felt like I had no other options, you know?” she said. “I was alone in there, and anything could have happened, you know? So, I did what I thought was right.”
Sotelo says after she was suspended she uploaded video of the attack to her TikTok account, where it’s currently been viewed more than 9-million times.
But a day after sharing it, she wrote an update saying, “I was suspended from my job after this incident.”
She told the local TV station that it came after she was called and warned, “If every one of these videos are not taken offline, you will be suspended.”
“They said till everything is removed online. I have no ability to do that,” Sotelo said, saying she had merely reposted the clip that was already online.
Sotelo claimed that she was being punished because her bosses “did not want anyone to know” that she was violently attacked while alone.
“They wanted to be private that it happened to me and that I fought back,” she claimed, saying she was suspended “because they do not want corporate to know” what had happened.
Now, this is just Sotelo’s side of the story, and perhaps store management sees things differently, but at the moment they’re not talking. The corporate P.R. at Subway told the New York Post that “the restaurant owner and management are fully cooperating with the police investigation, and we request patience until that process is complete,” but haven’t said anything about Sotelo’s suspension.
I can understand the franchise owner and management not wanting the security footage online, and while Sotelo says she merely reposted the clip that was already online, that doesn’t explain how the clip was first shared. Still, the video’s now out there at this point, and Sotelo’s suspension won’t change that fact.
I don’t know what will ultimately happen with Sotelo’s job, but my biggest concern is for those other employees around the country who are also having to work solo shifts, making them an easy target for other armed robbers. In fact, while Sotelo has made headlines for acting in self-defense, a Subway employee in Albuquerque shot and killed and armed robber early Tuesday morning, though it’s unclear if the employee was working alone when the robbery took place.
Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said officers were dispatched around 5:20 a.m. to a shooting at Subway on the 1300 block of Gibson, near Interstate 25.
When they arrived, they found a man had been shot and was dead inside the shop.
“After preliminary investigation, talking to some of the employees at the business, it appears that the male had entered the business and attempted to rob one of the employees,” Gallegos said. “At that point, one of the employees fired shots at the robber and that robber was deceased on scene.”
He said it appears the suspect was armed. It is not yet known whether he was also a suspect in other robberies.
No word from Subway on the status of that employee. Will they be suspended or fired as well?
Last year Subway banned openly carried firearms from restaurants (now the chain “requests that guests (other than authorized law enforcement) refrain from openly displaying firearms inside restaurants”), and I’m sure the employee handbook forbids employees from carrying either openly or concealed, but if I were working by myself in an establishment that was an inviting option for armed robbers, I think I’d rather risk getting fired for defending myself than losing my life over the contents of the cash register. I doubt very much that we’ll see a change in corporate policy here, but I’d love to see the chain respect the right of self-defense for its employees.