The 70-year-old Army veteran walked into the restaurant at 650 S. Reilly Road shortly after 5 a.m. on Saturday, heading to his regular seat near the register, when a man rushed in behind him.
"He ran up to the cash register, started demanding the money – 'Give me all the money in the drawer. Open the drawer,'" Brooks recalled on Friday.
Several other customers scrambled for safety, including a woman who grabbed her two children, ran into a restroom and called 911.
"We're in the Waffle House on Reilly Road, and there's a guy who's trying to rob here, and he has a really big gun," the woman told the 911 dispatcher.
Brooks said, however, that he immediately realized the AK-47 the would-be robber was brandishing wasn't real.
"This thing was wood almost all the way up to the end of the barrel. No trigger guard, no trigger," he said. "All the working parts were missing, so I just told the girls, 'Don't give him anything. That's a fake gun.'"
"Well, I'm for real," the robber said as he swung around and pointed the weapon at Brooks.
"I showed him how real I was," Brooks said Friday with a chuckle. "I hit him in the nose with my cane."
The two then engaged in a bizarre duel, using a cane and a phony firearm.
"He kept batting it away with the barrel of the rifle, and I kept batting the barrel of the rifle away," Brooks said.
Other customers then jumped in and chased the robber out of the restaurant. Fayetteville police are still searching for him.
The robber was described as black, with a light complexion, a thin build and dreadlocks. He was about 5 feet, 10 inches tall, is believed to be between 18 and 25 years old and was last seen wearing a black-and-gray hooded sweatshirt with a red hooded sweatshirt underneath, gray pants and a yellow bandana over his face.
Brooks, who suffered a small bruise on his hand, credited his military training for his actions.
"My first three years, I was in the infantry," he said. "I did two tours in Vietnam, so I got to see a lot of AK-47s."
Anybody with information about the robbery is asked to call Fayetteville police at 910-580-8477 or Crime Stoppers at 910-483-8477.
Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.