Suspect sought in Food City robbery

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Elizabethton Police are searching for a male suspect who robbed Food City of an undetermined amount of cash late Saturday.
   According to police, Ptl. Shannon Peters was dispatched to the grocery store, 900 Broad St., around 11:35 p.m. regarding an armed robbery in progress. While responding, the officer was advised that the suspect had left the store on foot, traveling west. Ptl. Peters and Ptl. Kevin Cable, who were on Main Street in the vicinity of the Old Courthouse, searched the area but were unable to locate the suspect.
   Witnesses told police a white male wearing a gray wig and half-mask on his face, entered the store and, waving a black automatic handgun, ordered everyone in the front of the store to "get down on the ground or he would kill them."
   According to a Food City employee, the man appeared to know his way around the store and where the money was kept. The man told the employee to "get just the large bills of money out of the tills and place it into his bag."
   After the employee did as she was told, the suspect ordered her to open one of two safes located in the front of the store. The man retrieved the money from the safe and as the employee was trying to open the other safe, the man said, "No one call the police for five minutes or I will shoot the whole place up." He then fled with an undetermined amount of cash.
   Sgt. Roger Crowe, while en route to the scene, was stopped by a motorist who told him that a silver SUV nearly ran their vehicle off the roadway on North East Street. The incident coincided with the time of the robbery.
   Elizabethton Deputy Chief of Police Larry Shell said Monday that a Carter County Sheriff's Department unit attempted to stop a vehicle shortly after the robbery, however, the driver was able to elude the officer.
   "We're looking at a possible connection between that pursuit and the robbery, but we haven't found a suspect as of yet," Shell said.
   Deputy Al Meehan was traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 19E, when he intercepted a gray 2002 Landrover with a Sevier County tag near Hampton High School. The officer followed the vehicle a short distance when the driver signaled and moved into the fast lane, slowed, made a U-turn at Stevens Lane and eventually turned into a nearby trailer park.
   The officer activated the emergency lights on his unit and the vehicle turned into the driveway of 102 Bertie Lane. When the officer pulled in behind the vehicle, the driver accelerated and drove through the back yards of several residences. Before backup units could arrive, the Landrover punched through a barbed-wire fence and entered McCloud Lumber Co.
   During follow-up investigation, a witness told the officer that the driver of the Landrover turned off the vehicle's lights, drove through the lumber yard, punched through another barbed-wire fence bordering Highway 19E near Doe River Gorge Road, and headed southbound, undetected.
   The robbery suspect is described as 6-feet to 6-feet-7 inches tall and weighing 200 to 220 pounds. He was wearing a blue mechanic's jumpsuit, blue hat, black gloves and black sneakers at the time of the robbery.
   Anyone with information is asked to contact Elizabethton Police Department at 542-4141.