Fleeing robbery suspect runs out of gas

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Deputies use K-9 and shoe left at abandoned car to track down McDonald

By Reece Murphy

A man accused of snatching money from the cash register at a community store Monday, May 20, wasn’t on the lam long before a series of bumbling mistakes led to his capture by a swarm of sheriff’s deputies and a K-9.


James Marvin McDonald, 35, of Concord, N.C., is charged with strong arm robbery of Camp Creek Grocery, 2366 Camp Creek Road.

“We got ‘em,” said Lancaster County Sheriff Barry Faile minutes after McDonald was in custody.

According to a Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office incident report, the crime started about 1 p.m. when the man later identified as McDonald drove up to the store’s gas pump, went inside and asked for 98 cents worth of gas.

The report said McDonald handed the cashier a credit card to pay for the gas, but the card was declined.

After a failed attempt to use the card to withdraw money from an ATM, McDonald reportedly went back to his car, drove to the corner of the parking lot and parked.

Billy Self, whose wife was working the cash register at the business, which is owned by their son, said McDonald came back in moments later and said he was going to wait there for a friend to bring him some money and asked if that would be OK.

Self said McDonald didn’t cause any trouble until he came back in a third time asking about “loose bubble gum.”

“He reached down and grabbed some bubble gum and handed her a dime,” Self said. “When she opened the cash register, he just jumped up on the counter and ran his hands through the (cash) register.

“He didn’t really threaten her or anything of that nature. She’s OK, just drained,” Billy Self said. “She said it really surprised her because he was so nice when he came in those other two times.”

The cashier told deputies she tried to force the register closed, but McDonald kept grabbing at the money – until she told him she was getting her gun. The report said McDonald jumped off the counter, shouted “Don’t shoot me!” and fell down in his scramble to get to the door.

Deputies found the gold Ford Focus sedan McDonald had been driving minutes later approximately two miles away, abandoned in the left lane of the 1500 block of Camp Drive near the Camp Creek Road intersection. He had apparently run out of gas.

Several residents called authorities after seeing McDonald running through their yards.

While calls by residents and passersby helped deputies hone in on McDonald’s vicinity, it was McDonald himself who left behind the clue that made the K-9 team’s job tracking him that much easier: a shoe lost near the car when he jumped out.

Deputies found McDonald within minutes, just after 2 p.m., in the woods near a pond off Ira Roberts Road. He was barefoot, sitting on a stump with his pants soaked.

Faile said McDonald was arrested and taken to the Lancaster County Detention Center. As of Tuesday afternoon, McDonald was still jailed there on a $40,000 surety bond.

“We’re just glad we could get there as quick as we did and put a perimeter around the place,” Faile said. “It was people calling, and us following through and checking on it. Everybody working together, that’s what it’s all about.”


Contact reporter Reece Murphy at (803) 283-1151