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Winona bar robbery goes south when patrons realize gun is actually air freshener

Antonio Shorter and Jaquann Hughes are wanted for a robbery gone very wrong in Winona.

Antonio Shorter and Jaquann Hughes are wanted for a robbery gone very wrong in Winona. Winona County

It was July of last year, shortly after midnight. The bartender at Steiny’s Bar in Winona had just finished cashing out the pull tab money for the night. She stepped outside with a few others for a smoke.

That’s when two men wearing all black walked up. Their faces were covered in bandanas and ski masks. One of them had his hand hidden inside a paper bag. He raised it toward the bartender. She couldn’t tell what he was holding, but she got the sinking impression that it was a gun.

The man told her to stand up. They were going back inside.

The other masked man wasted no time grabbing two pull tab boxes behind the counter. All signs pointed to a clean, quick armed robbery. But according to a warrant filed in Winona County District Court last week, it was about to take a turn. 

One of the men dropped a pull tab box. Maybe that made the patrons a little bolder, because one of the witnesses chose that moment to get in the masked man’s face and confront him… causing him to drop the other box.

That’s when another patron joined in the fray and tried to grab the man’s mask and reveal his face. The robber’s partner—the one holding the bag—clapped the would-be unmasker in the head. He probably wasn’t expecting a third onloooker to go for the bag, which went sailing out of his gasp.

The bag fluttered to the ground, and a single piece of black plastic came clattering out of it. It was not, as the bartender had originally thought, a gun. It was a fragment from an air freshener.

This evened the odds quite a bit. A scuffle ensued. But the two robbers eventually fled the bar—empty-handed and unidentified. Not, however, without dropping a pair of sunglasses and a cloth bag, and allowing some of their assailants to size them up.

Based on their builds and the feel of their hair beneath their hoods, the bartender and the witnesses thought the robbers might have been 25-year-old Jaquann “Bay Bay” Hughes and 21-year-old Antonio “Little Tony” Shorter. Both men had been at the bar until about 15 minutes before the robbery, and both of them were sporting dreadlocks.

A DNA comparison between the sunglasses and a sample from Shorter proved to be a match. Fingerprints found on the air freshener piece looked like a hit for Hughes.

This was all nearly a year ago now, but Winona police just issued a warrant for Hughes’ arrest. He’s wanted on charges of first-degree attempted robbery and aggravated attempted robbery. Shorter got his warrant on Wednesday.

The whereabouts of these two men are currently unknown, according to the Winona Daily News—but there are probably some pretty good stories going around at Steiny’s.