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Leads few in robbery spree

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By Chris Sardelli

 Christopher Sardelli

csardelli@thelancasternews.com 

Investigators are hoping fingerprints, surveillance videos and a slew of witness statements will be the keys to solving a string of robberies in the Panhandle this week. 

Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Matt Shaw said Friday, May 23, that investigators are still looking at the events surrounding the robberies, which took place between May 19 and 21 in the parking lots of three Indian Land businesses, though no suspects have yet been identified or found.

“We haven’t found them and there’s nothing new that we can talk about yet,” Shaw said.

He said evidence points to the same suspects in all three robberies.

In an effort to find the suspects, Shaw released incident reports from the robberies, which took place outside Indian Land’s Harris Teeter, CVS and Walmart.

The first robbery happened at 8:23 p.m. Monday, May 19, in the parking lot of Harris Teeter,  6271 Carolina Commons.

Deputies say a man approached a woman who was sitting in the front passenger seat of a car, opened her door and demanded her purse, according to a sheriff’s office incident report.

“The man said he had a gun and out of fear for her life and safety (she) gave the man her pocketbook,” a deputy wrote in the report.

The man then fled the scene in an SUV, which possibly has a North Carolina tag.

Deputies reviewed surveillance footage from the parking lot and watched as the man pulled into the parking lot, walked to the store, turned around and approached the woman. Soon after, he walked back to his SUV holding what appeared to be a purse, the report said.

About $610 worth of items and cash were stolen during the robbery, the report said.

The second incident happened at 9:22 p.m. Wednesday, May 21, in the parking lot of CVS, 7647 Charlotte Highway (U.S. 521), when a man approached a 58-year-old woman sitting in her car and demanded she hand over her purse, according to a separate incident report.

“The unknown male opened (the victim’s) driver-side door and stated something close to ‘I’m robbing you. Give me your pocketbook,’” a deputy wrote in the report. “(The victim) stated she stared at the subject for a few seconds and then the suspect stated ‘I mean it. Give me your pocketbook. I have a gun,’ while pointing toward the front of his waist.”

Despite the man’s threat, the victim said the man never displayed a gun, the report said. He then tried to grab her purse, though the woman tried to pull it back.

“They got into a struggle for the pocketbook, pulling it back and forth,” the report said.

The man eventually pulled it from the victim and ran to his SUV, though the victim chased after him and asked if the man could “just take the wallet and leave the pocketbook.”

A second man exited the passenger side, but the first man yelled “get back in the car,” which he did, the report said. They then drove away in a dark-colored SUV.

Estimated value of the purse, cash and miscellaneous items is $412, the report said.

A third robbery was reported a few hours later, at 11:01 p.m. Wednesday in the parking lot at Walmart, 10048 Charlotte Highway (U.S. 521).

Deputies arrived at the scene and spoke with a 61-year-old woman who appeared to be “very disturbed and upset,” according to another incident report.

The woman told deputies she was walking toward the left entrance of Walmart when she noticed a blue/green SUV pull up behind her and then stop a few feet away.

Suddenly a man jumped out of the passenger side and grabbed her purse, though she would not let it go, the release said. That’s when she began yelling for help.

“The victim struggled with the suspect and the suspect struck the victim in the face. The victim received minor injuries,” a sheriff’s office press release said. “The suspect then fled in the SUV that was driven by another subject.”

EMS responded to treat minor injuries to the woman’s face and right thumb, though she was not taken to a hospital.

The victim could not remember how much money was in her purse, and deputies only recorded the cost of the purse at $60, the report said.

A fourth robbery, which took place in the parking lot of a Food Lion grocery store in Waxhaw, N.C., also on May 21, may be related, investigators said. Lancaster County sheriff’s investigators are working with the Waxhaw Police Department to share information.

Though Shaw says every situation is different, and doesn’t recommend any specific course of action if someone is faced with one of these situations, he offered a general recommendation.

“In all the personal safety courses I’ve taught, my general recommendation as far as wallets and purses go is you shouldn’t be carrying things in there that you’re really afraid to lose,” Shaw said. “Regardless of your skills and abilities, if you’re armed or unarmed, if you aren’t carrying something in your wallet or purse that you’re afraid to lose, why get hurt over that?”

The man from the Harris Teeter robbery is described as white, between 30 and 40 years old, with brown hair and wearing an orange shirt.

The man in the CVS robbery is described as white, between 30 and 40 years old, about 6 feet tall, and wearing a plaid shirt and a hat. A witness also reported the man had a “weathered appearance as if he works in the sun frequently.” The passenger in the SUV during that robbery was described as a thin black man, the release said.

The man who grabbed the woman’s purse in the Walmart robbery is described as a thin, black man, between 20 and 30 years old, the release said.

The sheriff’s office asks anyone with information about the robberies to call them at (803) 283-3388 or contact Crimestoppers at 1-888-Crime SC (1-888-274-6372). You can also e-mail or text an anonymous tip at www.midlandscrimestoppers.com.

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416