Opp robbery could be part of crime string

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 14, 2013

A string of weekend robberies that presumably began at Lake Grocery store in Opp may make for a good anti-smoking campaign, after two suspects broke in Friday morning and immediately went for the cigarettes.

“That’s wanting a smoke real bad,” storeowner Randy Herrin said.

Herrin, who owns the store with his wife, Susan, said the building sustained approximately $2,500 in damage after two men smashed the glass doors and stole an undisclosed amount of cigarettes and other items.

“It was around 2 a.m. when the two guys drove by the store real slow,” Herrin said. “We know all of this because of our video surveillance. They went past and then backed up to store, out of camera range.”

Herrin said the suspects, two men he described as “hooded and gloved,” could not be identified from the video footage. He added, “One man was short, and the other was very tall.”

Herrin said the men may have spent more time getting into the building than they did actually inside the store.

“One of them had a little two-pound sledge hammer,” Herrin said. “I know for sure, because he left it. He beat on the glass door, hitting it eight times and then gave up. He stood back and gave the door two good kicks, and it gave way.”

Once inside, Herrin said the men stole sunglasses and cigarettes, bypassing other, more valuable items.

“It was strange,” he said. “There were some rolled coins and my laptop right there. They went right by it and went to the cigarettes.”

Covington County Chief Deputy David Anderson said Tuesday that he could not say for sure whether the Lake Grocery robbery was connected to two other incidents later that morning in Brantley and Highland Home.

“Right now, we haven’t come up with anything else on it,” Anderson said. “We are working with the other counties involved.”

Herrin said, because of the incidents’ similarities, he thinks the same suspects were behind all three robberies.

“Each time they were in the store less than a minute,” Herrin said. “(At Lake Grocery), you have a few seconds before the alarm goes off so you have time to disarm it,” he said. “When it went off, the short guy ran out and it took the other a good 15 seconds, but he left too.”

Herrin said the suspects fled in what appeared to be a gold Ford Explorer with “shiny rims.” He said investigators with the CCSD were unable to make out the vehicle’s licenses plates, but are hopeful footage from the other stores will yield a better image.

“I’m really fortunate they didn’t do more damage,” Herrin said. “We are open for business.”