A western Iredell County convenience store credits an eyewitness for scaring off two burglars who tried to gain access to the store by driving a van through the front door.
Employees at Market Basket, at 3541 Taylorsville Highway near Absher Farm Loop, said the van crashed into the store at around 3:30 a.m. Saturday.
The Iredell County Sheriff’s Office confirmed it was investigating. No arrests had been announced as of Monday evening.
“It was like they were unsure how hard to hit it,” said store manager Sybil Rivers, who later reviewed security footage of the van slowly backing into the store.
When that didn’t work, the van pulled up to try and crash into the store a second time, she said.
“And then they overcorrected the second time actually and the van went inside the store,” Rivers said. “You could tell they weren’t expecting that.”
Suzanne Morrison, a newspaper carrier for the Record & Landmark, said she was delivering papers across the street from the store when she heard the alarm sound and went to investigate.
“When I first saw the van, I thought to myself it was someone delivering something, but then when the alarm went off and I saw the man running, I put two and two together,” said Morrison.
She realized the store was being robbed, she said. She watched the silhouette of one of the suspects as he ran to get into the van, which was leaving the scene.
It appeared that between the alarm and her presence, the suspects decided to leave without taking anything, Morrison said.
But when the white van sped down the highway, Morrison did something she says her family wished she didn’t — she followed it.
“It was just impulse. It was the first thing that came to my mind,” Morrison said. “It was just messed up what they were doing.”
She followed the van and tried to get a read of the license number, but it was covered with a black film, she said. She lost the van near Wood Bridge Road, about a mile from the store. She said she was never afraid that the suspects might shoot at her as she tailed them.
Morrison later went back to the store and called 911. When deputies arrived, she told them what she saw and later continued her delivery route.
Ten minutes later, Morrison saw the same white van — damaged from crashing into the store — on Snowbird Road. She called 911 again and waited at the head of the road, making sure the van didn’t leave.
She said officers approached the van, but it was abandoned.
Rivers said officers told her the van was stolen.
Rivers also praised Morrison for her bravery.
“She came at the perfect time,” Rivers said. “Seriously, they would have come in and grabbed the ATM. They were eyeballing the ATM. ... It could have been a lot worse than it was.”
Rivers said the store was reopened hours later. By Monday, the front of the store had been covered with plywood.
“We had an open floor plan there for a little while,” Rivers joked. “We thought about making it a drive-through.”
Morrison said that although she wasn’t really scared as it happened, she is having trouble believing what she did.
“It was pretty crazy how in 30 minutes I witnessed a robbery and chased the van,” Morrison said. “I was joking with the officers: ‘Are y’all hiring an investigator?’”