The co-owner of a Shawnee gun store was fatally shot and three suspects were wounded during an attempted robbery Friday afternoon.
The gunfight broke out after four robbers entered She’s A Pistol, at 57th Street and Nieman Road, about 2:10 p.m., according to Shawnee police.
Jon Bieker, 44, of Gardner, who co-owned the business with his wife, Becky Bieker, died later at a hospital, police said.
“Jon was kind of a quiet guy, very conscientious,” said Sandy Kaspar, who for several years provided sign language interpreter services on the lower level of the building.
“He and Becky took great pride in their store. I remember the day she came down to introduce herself to me; she was very excited. The store was their dream.”
The shooting started after one robber struck Becky Bieker in the face, police said. Police didn’t know who fired first or how the gun battle unfolded, but it left Jon Bieker and two robbers with critical gunshot wounds. A fourth person, one of the robbers, had less-serious gunshot injuries.
Jon Bieker and two of the robbers were taken to Overland Park Regional Medical Center in critical condition.
One of the robbers remained in critical condition Friday night, and the other was listed in fair condition. Another patient at Overland Park Regional was also in fair condition, but it was unknown if that was the other robber or Becky Bieker.
Another injured person was taken to the University of Kansas Hospital where a condition report was not available.
A large amount of gunfire was exchanged, said Maj. Dan Tennis, a police spokesman.
Two of the robbers fled the store, shedding some of their clothing as they ran to the southeast, Tennis said. Shawnee police called in tracking dogs and the Kansas City police helicopter. They also blocked nearby traffic.
“A sweatshirt here, a hat here, a pair of shorts here,” Tennis said of the robbers throwing off clothing. “So this trail leads to where the suspects were.”
The fleeing robbers, meanwhile, tried to get inside a nearby home. They ended up hiding in the screened-in porch. After the home’s resident heard them knocking, she dialed 911.
Police officers with a dog were within 100 yards of the woman’s house when she called 911, police said.
Those two robbers were arrested there, along with the two hom police found at the scene of the shooting.
Police had no reports of customers being inside the store at the time of the shooting, Tennis said.
Keith Winterhalter, a financial adviser with Edward Jones whose office shares a wall with the gun store, said he first heard noise that he mistook as a hammer striking the wall. He then realized it was gunfire and escorted two clients into another room on the opposite side of the building.
Winterhalter then crawled on his hands and knees back to the office to check on an employee.
“I heard five or six more shots and then screaming,” he said.
He later saw that a bullet had penetrated the wall into his office, he said.
“There was a gun fight next door, no doubt about it,” Winterhalter said.
Jim Allen, a member of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners who operates an insurance agency near the shooting location, spoke with a witness shortly afterward.
“She said she saw three individuals walking in wearing hoodies,” Allen said. “She said she had been suspicious because they had parked on the side of the building. One of them was carrying a duffel bag.”
When one of the individuals raised an arm, as if to shoot a weapon, Allen said, the witness called 911.
She’s A Pistol caters to female gun owners and offers self-defense and gun-safety classes.
Ken Sweeney of Shawnee, a regular customer of the store, admired how the Biekers emphasized self-defense, especially for women.
“Becky wanted to open up that place mainly for women, hence the name,” Sweeney said. “She wanted to show women how to handle firearms and how to handle themselves.”
The Biekers offered self-defense classes in a basement space of the shop, Sweeney said.
“My daughter is a second-degree black belt, and she was going to go and help with some of the classes,” Sweeney said.
Richard L. Liston III, a system technician at AVIES, located about a block north of the gun shop, said he visited the business shortly after it opened less than two years ago.
“She (Becky Bieker) is really hard-working; she put a lot of work in that store,” Liston said. “It is a tragedy. It is just wild that it happened around here. You never really expect it to happen in little, sleepy Shawnee.”
Shawnee Councilwoman Michelle Distler described Jon Bieker as “one of the nicest people that you’d ever meet.”
“He and Becky were both very, very involved in the community,” Distler said. They were “big supporters of the Shawnee Police Department and Shawnee Downtown Partnership. They’ve been great resources for teaching self-defense, especially for women, and not just firearm self-defense.
“He’ll be sorely missed.”
Shawnee Mayor Jeff Meyers released a statement on the shooting Friday night:
“Today is a day of great sadness in our city,” the mayor said.
Meyers said the Biekers are respected business owners “who do things the right way and are always willing to go out of their way to help others.”
“The simple fact is there is no place for this type of violence in Shawnee or any other city,” Meyers said. “We pride ourselves on being a safe and friendly city and today’s events, while unbelievably tragic, will not change that. I want to pass along my condolences to the entire Bieker family. As they deal with this tremendous loss, I know our community stands ready to assist in any way that we can.”
Police said they did not know why the gunmen targeted the business and weren’t sure if they completed the robbery.
“We don’t know if they got money, guns or anything like that,” Tennis said. “Two of the suspects never made it out of the door, and the two suspects who fled didn’t have anything with them.”
The Star’s Matt Campbell contributed to this report.