"Don't mess with my family." DURHAM - The robber was holding a gun to 5-year-old Mary Long's head when a 3-foot-tall Mighty Morphin Power Ranger leapt into the room.
"Get away from my family," 4-year-old Stevie Long shouted, punctuating his screams with swipes of his plastic sword and hearty "yah, yahs."
The robber and his accomplice, who was waiting outside the apartment Friday night, fled with credit cards, jewelry, cash and other items that Stevie's mother, Jennifer Long, dumped from her purse.
"I scared the bad guys away," Stevie said Tuesday evening at the apartment at 901 Chalk Level Road in north Durham.
Two men had approached Jennifer Long's boyfriend and his son Friday night as they stood outside the apartments she helps manage, according to a police report. The strangers asked for pot, and then a cigarette, and as the son went to get one, both men pulled guns, police said.
One stayed with the boyfriend as the other forced the son back into the apartment, police said. Inside were Jennifer Long, a cousin, Stevie, Mary and two other children, police said.
They were forced on the floor. The robber pointed the gun at Mary and a 1-year-old girl named Sierra, said Stevie's uncle, Bernie Evans, 33, who lives above the Longs.
"During the robbery, a ... boy snuck into his bedroom, dressed himself in a Power Ranger costume and armed himself with a plastic sword," police said. "The child then exited his room and approached the armed suspect, in an attempt to protect his family."
Relatives said the robber abandoned plans to take Stevie's mother to an ATM to withdraw cash when he saw Stevie.
"It tripped him out, and that's when they moved on," said Evans, who did not witness the incident. Jennifer Long declined to comment, saying her employers at the apartment complex would not allow it.
Stevie likes to think he cuts an intimidating figure in his red-and-black mask and foam suit that replicates the rippling muscles of the kiddie adventure show heroes. But Evans said the robber was more startled that Stevie was able to retreat to his bedroom and morph.
Though the robbers wore no masks, victims could only give vague descriptions of them. Police have no suspects in this or the other 10 armed robberies reported in Durham in the past six days, said Kammie Michael, a spokeswoman.
Evans said family members are struggling to help their children understand their ordeal. A counselor said Stevie needs to improve his distinction between fantasy and reality, said Heather Evans, Stevie's aunt.
"He fully believed he morphed," she said.
Mary grasps her danger better. She stayed home from school Monday and Tuesday.
"My doctor said I get a day off," she said.
"My mommy said I was crying in my sleep because I had bad dreams."
Staff writer Matt Dees can be reached at 956-2433 or email@example.com.