CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the cool early morning hours of Nov. 7, John Columbus Beane lay in the parking lot of Linda's Sports Bar in Sissonville, the distant police sirens signaling an end to a day filled with what had proven to be a string of very bad decisions.The shotgun Beane, 58, had wielded in his attempt to rob the bar was in pieces. Two patrons had wrestled the weapon from him and, according to prosecutors, used it to repeatedly club the would-be robber while they waited for police to arrive at the scene.Authorities were already responding to Beane's first failed robbery attempt that morning -- a raid into a nearby Husson's Pizza, which ended after the cashier fled through a back exit and left Beane to face off against an impossible cash register.On Friday, Beane admitted to two charges of first-degree robbery in Kanawha County Circuit Judge Duke Bloom's courtroom. He faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if the judge decides to run the two charges consecutively. If not, Beane is guaranteed to spend at least 10 years behind bars.Beane told the judge that he was in a drunken haze the day he tried to rob the two businesses, and did not remember many of the details, including entering the bar, or even driving to the pizza joint."Everything's kind of bits and pieces," he said, at times glumly shaking his head as he stood before the judge. "I remember going to Linda's, but I don't remember going in."Beane said he agreed to the plea because video surveillance appeared to clearly show him taking part in the crime. Kanawha County assistant prosecutor Fred Giggenbach relayed most of the details of what happened that night.On Nov. 6, at about 8 p.m., Beane donned a ski mask and a pair of sunglasses, walked through the front door of the Husson's Pizza at 6826 Sissonville Drive, pointed a .410 shotgun at several employees in the restaurant, and demanded money, Giggenbach said. The employees fled, and Beane left after failing to open the store's electronic cash register.Later that night, Beane drove to Linda's Sports Bar at 7714 Sissonville Drive, again wearing a ski mask and sunglasses as he entered the bar, he closed the door quietly and "just stood there for a couple of seconds," bartender Cindy Harman told the Gazette.
"I thought maybe he was a weirdo," Harman said, at first not realizing that Beane was there to rob the place. "Halloween's over."Beane pointed the shotgun at Harman and in a near-whisper told her to hand over whatever was in the cash register. That's when local drifter Steven Thaxton, one of the two patrons in the bar at the time, stepped in.Thaxton laughed, and according to Harman, said, "'You're not going to try and rob us with a BB gun, are you?'"Thaxton, soon aided by Gary Hall, began struggling with Beane and eventually wrested the weapon away and dragged him outside to the parking lot."Him and Steven just started fighting with the gun," Hall told the Gazette. "I knew if it went off it was either me or the bartender who gets shot. I didn't have any choice but to help."Hall would not comment on what had transpired once the men were in the parking lot, but according to Giggenbach, Thaxton and Hall beat Beane with the shotgun until it broke apart.
Neither Giggenbach nor Harman knew of a way to reach Thaxton for comment.Hall said that during the incident, Beane did not appear as drunk as he claimed Friday."I couldn't tell he was," Hall said. "He spoke awful plain. I knew whatever he was saying."Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.