Bartender recalls cowing pair

Published: Thursday, Oct. 14 1999 12:00 a.m. MDT

Joseph Mitchell Parsons might never have ended up as a prison parolee on the run if it hadn't been for a vigilante bartender.

After a taxi cab driver was robbed at gunpoint back in 1982, the two bandits ditching the car in a Las Vegas alley met two "concerned" citizens.The citizens were packing.

Charles Conant, now 46, and his brother-in-law, Ronald Maske, caught the young Parsons -- unaware he was packing a gun of his own.

Conant, who once lived in Salt Lake City and worked as a truck driver, still tends bar in Vegas and easily recalls that night in the alley 17 years ago.

First, he heard the sound of a car peeling away.

"They're burning rubber, coming screaming down the way, and I knew something was wrong," Conant told the Deseret News. "That's when the brakes slammed. I mean nobody slams them on in the middle of an alley, in the middle of the night."

Conant and Maske were watching television when they heard the commotion. Maske grabbed the shotgun. Conant grabbed his handgun.

They rushed toward the alley.

"I heard this screaming," Conant says now. "I could see this cab driver lying in the street, and I couldn't tell if they'd shot the cab driver or not."

When police arrived, they saw Conant and Maske, their guns trained on the so-called bandits.

"We held them there, didn't let them move."

Conant says Parsons was squirming, and both men offered up the money if they'd let them go.

"They were begging us, but I could tell they were bad news. It didn't matter to me. I don't need no one's stolen money."

Conant says he's been shot at and stabbed over the years, "but that's a bar town for ya."

"You have these nuts robbing old ladies and other people all the time, and you do what you have to do to help people," Conant said. "I am legal. I carry a weapon, I am single, and I don't have anything to lose."

Nearly two decades later, Conant says he was surprised to hear about Parsons' scheduled execution, but he didn't feel any pity.

"I wish they'd do a lot more up here," he said.

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