Thursday, June 14, 2018

Man Armed with Sledge Hammer Hijacks Truck, Bashes in Bar Windows on Cherokee

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 7:46 AM

click to enlarge Michael Mooney was charged with four felonies. - COURTESY ST. LOUIS POLICE
  • COURTESY ST. LOUIS POLICE
  • Michael Mooney was charged with four felonies.

It must have been an odd scene: The little guy with a sledge hammer, clinging to the side of a moving Ameren work truck, ordering the frightened driver to gun it down Cherokee Street.

Michael Mooney, a wiry 46-year-old with a decades-long criminal record, had hijacked the truck shortly before 4 p.m. on Tuesday, authorities say. He threatened the worker with the handheld sledge and forced him to drive wildly, rolling through stop lights, according to the police report.

Soon, they neared the Fortune Teller Bar, a popular spot where actual tarot card readers have a dedicated space on a raised platform in the front window. It was almost time to open — 4 p.m. — and one of the bartenders was outside setting up tables. Owner Matthew Thenhaus was in the back office.

Thenhaus says Mooney made eye contact with the bartender.

"That's when he hops off the truck and comes right after her," he says.

The bartender bolted inside and locked the door. Thenhaus heard her scream and rushed out even as Mooney began smashing out the windows with his hammer. A big bay window shattered to bits, and Mooney started climbing onto the card readers' platform.

click to enlarge The Fortune Teller Bar's windows were boarded up on Wednesday. - DOYLE MURPHY
  • DOYLE MURPHY
  • The Fortune Teller Bar's windows were boarded up on Wednesday.
Thenhaus hurried forward as his bartender ran out the back door. He met Mooney at the window.

"I just grabbed a bar stool on my way and planted it directly in his chest," he says.

Thenhaus was able to shove him back onto the sidewalk, but Mooney hopped up and started coming again. The worried bar owner says he wasn't sure if his adversary had any other weapons, so he disengaged and ran out the back door, locking it behind him.

He could hear Mooney inside his bar, screaming "Call the police! Call the police!" Not that Thenhaus needed extra encouragement to do that. As he was on the phone with 911, the operator of the Cut — a really tasty sandwich shop embedded in Fortune Teller — and others on the famously communal street came to the front door to see what was going on.

Thenhaus watched what happened next later, on a security video. He had figured Mooney would smash up the place, but instead the ex-con, hammer in hand, calmly walked back through the gathering crowd. He then wandered into a cell phone store next door, casually laid the hammer down and walked back down the block to a tattoo parlor, where he waited until police arrived.

On Wednesday, city prosecutors filed charges of kidnapping (for hijacking the Ameren truck), armed criminal action (using the hammer during the kidnapping), unlawful use of a weapon (hammer again) and property damage (smashing the windows.) He was held on $100,000 cash bond.

Mooney's long and varied criminal record includes convictions for robbery in 1991, harassment and domestic assault in 2006, and statutory rape and statutory sodomy in 2007.

The state considers him a "persistent offender." Still, it's not really clear what set him off. Thenhaus says as soon as he heard Mooney hollering about calling the police he realized he it wasn't personal toward the bar as much as it was some sort of mental breakdown. "It's obvious you're on another planet."

During the two hours that followed Mooney's arrest, Thenhaus and others talked to the cops, swept up the glass and fastened plywood over the broken windows.

"A lot of really great fellow business owners on the street came in, checking on us," he says.

The bar was open by 6 p.m. After that, Thenhaus says, it was a pretty normal night.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.


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