Crime

Shawnee gun shop co-owner is remembered as a gentle giant and a loving husband

Becky and Jon Bieker
Becky and Jon Bieker Courtesy of the family

He loved “Star Wars.” And the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which he always tried to see when it came to Kansas City. He liked to travel, then share the photos.

He listened to Pantera and boasted an extensive movie collection. And he was a gentle soul, the kind of guy who’d post a message to Facebook about how much he enjoyed just sitting with his wife, watching a movie.

These were things friends and family recalled on Saturday, a day after 44-year-old Jon Bieker was killed in a violent attempted robbery at She’s a Pistol, the Shawnee gun shop that Bieker owned with wife Becky.

News of the robbery and consequent shootout — which also left three of the four assailants hospitalized — spread quickly through the city, leaving the tight-knit community shaken and grief-stricken as they remembered the quiet but kind man who had devoted himself to helping his wife’s business succeed.

Born Aug. 5, 1970, in Salina, Kan., Bieker never would venture too far from his Kansas roots. As a child, the family moved around the state, from Salina to Glasco to WaKeeney, and Bieker eventually would graduate from Trego Community High School in 1988.

Despite his size — he would grow to become 6 foot 8, according to family — he had little interest in sports growing up, gravitating instead to music. He tried the trumpet and the French horn and once formed with two friends a high school band called Mantis. He played the drums, and he played them hard. No matter how thick his sticks were, they always seemed to end up broken.

He had a mind for technology and was a master tinkerer, taking apart lawn mowers and engines and then teaching himself how to put them back together. Later he sought to convert his house into a “smart home,” in which everything could be controlled from his computer.

For work, he favored jobs with a technological bent. Over the years, he worked for Harrah’s, for Sprint, for Openwave, for Tradebot. He started his own business at one point, Sentelco, which involved the wiring of homes to alert owners if their refrigerator stopped working or their power went out.

Eventually he met Becky, who had blond hair and a warm smile.

They married in March 2009, opened the gun shop in downtown Shawnee not long after, and despite a bit of early controversy — some in town wondered whether the presence of a gun shop might disrupt the quiet downtown area — quickly established themselves as a well-regarded staple of the local business community.

Customers loved the shop’s welcoming feel and how devoted its owners were to teaching people how to protect themselves. Becky and Jon would sit there talking with customers for as long as it took, patiently answering this or explaining that. The couple became friendly with a host of regulars, and it didn’t hurt that they kept a vast collection of merchandise on hand. In addition to offering classes on gun safety and self-defense, the shop sold everything from stun guns and pepper spray to gun-themed apparel and specialty purses for women who needed space for a gun.

“They had these awesome purses that were actually cool and trendy,” said Nicole Porter, 38, who along with her husband was a regular customer at the shop. “We could never go in there and not spend money because they had such unique things.”

While Becky was known as the face of the shop, typically stationed behind the counter in the front of the store, Jon seemed content to hang back. Multiple friends who spoke with The Star on Saturday described him as quiet or soft-spoken, just a kind guy who never sought the spotlight.

But his shyness belied a quick wit.

When people would look at his towering frame and ask if he played basketball, he’d respond, “No. Do you play miniature golf?”

“He had the best sense of humor — he had an ornery sense of humor,” said Michelle Distler, a Shawnee city councilwoman who came to know the couple through the city’s citizens police academy program.

He was also security-minded, a protector, and it was not hard, in the hours after the tragic news had spread throughout town, for those who knew Jon to envision him jumping to his wife’s rescue during Friday’s robbery attempt.

“I don’t know all the facts, I don’t know anything that went on, but I would imagine Jon went down like any of us would — protecting his family and his business,” said Chris Calkins, who runs Calkins Electric Supply Co., located just north of the Biekers’ shop. “That’s probably what mattered most to Jon.”

As Andrea Smith, Jon’s sister, put it, Becky “has lost a true knight in shining armor.”

As the Shawnee community mourned the death of a well-respected businessman, local police worked to determine how exactly Friday’s events transpired.

“We’re receiving a ton of information,” said Maj. Dan Tennis, a spokesman for the Shawnee Police Department who also indicated that the department was working with other agencies around the metropolitan area to determine any links to other robberies. “This is a big case and there’s a lot to do, and we’re going to take our time and get it right.”

Shawnee police made four arrests Friday, but no one had been charged as of Saturday evening, and authorities declined to release additional details on the case.

All four suspects are Missouri teenagers, according to jail booking records. The Star is not releasing their names because they have not been charged.

Two of them previously have been accused of weapons-related crimes in Kansas City.

One teen, who turns 20 on Tuesday, pleaded guilty in September in Jackson County to unlawful use of a weapon.

According to court documents, Kansas City police officers saw him and two other young men in April walking in the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalks near 60th Terrace and Jackson Avenue. The officers stopped them and discovered all three were carrying loaded, concealed handguns. The men told police they had the guns for protection.

After the 19-year-old pleaded guilty, a Jackson County judge placed him on three years of probation and ordered him to complete 40 hours of community service. The defendant was forbidden to own or possess weapons, and he had to forfeit to police the .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun he had been carrying when stopped. He also was ordered to complete any drug or alcohol treatment program ordered by his probation officer.

A second suspect in Friday’s gun store robbery currently faces two charges in Jackson County.

According to court records, the 19-year-old man got into a domestic argument in September near 12th Street and Woodland Avenue. Police were called after a woman complained that he was holding their 8-month-old son in a car at gunpoint.

When officers arrived, only the teen remained in the car. Police found a .40-caliber pistol tucked between the front passenger seat and center console. As officers put the teen into a police car, he allegedly became belligerent and spit on one officer.

Prosecutors charged him with unlawful use of a weapon and assault/attempted assault on a law enforcement officer. The case is pending.

For her part, Becky Bieker, who was hospitalized after being punched in the face during the robbery attempt, was released Saturday from Overland Park Regional Medical Center, according to a hospital spokeswoman.

Attempts to reach Bieker were unsuccessful, but a message posted to the business’s Facebook page read, “The staff of She’s A Pistol thanks you for the kind words, thoughts, and prayers. Please understand that all training for the coming week is canceled and the store will be closed for a brief time. We will be in contact with customers awaiting shipments, etc soon. Thank you for your understanding.”

The Star’s Tony Rizzo contributed to this report.

To reach Dugan Arnett, call 816-234-4039 or send email to darnett@kcstar.com.

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