A courteous offer to hold a woman's purse while she moved her car led to a Scott City police officer looking down the barrel of a pistol.
Around 1 p.m. Tuesday, Lt. Roy Butler came to Store 24 at 301 Crites St. in Scott City after the clerk had called police regarding a customer attempting to make a purchase with a stolen credit card.
Valerie Lisa Pillow, 37, of 904 Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, was attempting to purchase some small items and gasoline, and get cash back using the stolen card, police said.
Butler asked her to move her car away from the gas pumps into a parking spot so he could question her. He offered to hold her purse while she moved her car.
"She refused," he said, "and the fight started."
Butler placed Pillow under arrest and reached for the purse. Pillow resisted and tried to pull the purse away. While the two were grappling over the purse, both fell to the ground. During the struggle Pillow managed to retrieve from the purse a .25-caliber semiautomatic gun which she aimed toward Butler's head.
No shots were fired and within seconds Butler was able to grab Pillow's arm and move it downward. He said he didn't have time to think about the possibility he might be shot.
"My instinct was to grab her hand and get control of her hand and get the gun away from her," Butler said.
Pillow pulled away from Butler and then pointed the gun under her own chin. Butler then grabbed the gun from Pillow and handcuffed her.
The incident took three or four minutes, Butler said. While the two were scuffling, the store clerk called police. Two Scott County sheriff's deputies arrived just as he was putting handcuffs on Pillow.
Some bystanders told Butler later that they were about to assist him but backed off when they saw Pillow pull the gun from her purse. That was the wise thing to do, he said.
"When weapons are involved it's better for them to get to a phone and call the police," Butler said. "It's better to get somebody who is trained for that. So much can go wrong."
Had the gun gone off, he said, bystanders could have been hit by a stray bullet. He said the witnesses did the right thing by backing off.
The gun Pillow had in her possession turned out to have been stolen from Cape Girardeau. Butler said Pillow admitted that she had taken the gun without the owner's permission or knowledge. It is uncertain if the owner of the gun plans to press charges.
Pillow has been charged with possession of stolen property, armed criminal action, first-degree assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to distribute, unlawful use of a weapon, stealing and resisting arrest. She is in the Scott County Jail in Benton, Mo., in lieu of a $200,000 cash-only bond.
335-6611, extension 160