Feb. 8-Masked burglars stole an entire ATM machine from inside a convenience store in Waynesville during the wee hours of the morning over the weekend.
The Short Stop on North Main Street sustained heavy damage during the course of the robbery. The thieves had a hard time getting the ATM out, however. Ultimately, they chained it to their van and yanked - ripping down the doorframe in the process.
The robbery, which occurred before dawn Saturday, Feb. 4, remained unsolved as of press time on Tuesday.
Cathy Hendricks Queen, owner of the Short Stop for 15 years, was angry about the robbery. As a business owner, she said it was tantamount to someone "breaking into her home."
"I feel very violated," said Queen. "People think that people who own businesses have it made, but we work very hard."
Luckily, Queen had security cameras that recorded everything that happened that night - even a moment of mishap when one of the robbers got tangled in the chain pulling the ATM and was dragged behind the van through the parking lot.
The bandits did not appear to take anything else from the store, not even a pack of gum or drink from the cooler. The thieves were thinly disguised in what appeared to be Covid face masks. Unfortunately, along with their hoodies, it was impossible to make them out.
"They had masks and gloves on so you couldn't see who they were," Queen said of the footage.
Chain of events
Queen shared the details of what was captured on camera that night with The Mountaineer.
The first sign of trouble came around midnight on Friday. The robbers were seen on surveillance footage peering through the windows of not only the Short Stop, but also near store fronts. They loitered between businesses, appearing to scope them out through the front windows, from about 12 a.m. until around 5 a.m.
"We have them on camera looking through the Waterin' Hole windows, and they were doing the same thing to the Tool Shed, just scoping out what they could get," said Queen.
They even moved their white unmarked van back-and-forth between the parking lots of the various businesses clustered around the intersection, which is currently a mess due to a road construction project.
After a few hours of loitering, they threw a chunk of cement through the front glass door of the Short Stop. At that point, they entered the building, but discovered the ATM wouldn't budge.
The ATM was bolted in the concrete with four-inch bolts, according to Queen. So the burglars wrapped a chain around the ATM, hitched it to the van and pulled.
It still didn't budge.
"They had to back up through the store to get enough gumption in their little minivan to pull it," said Queen. "It was a little around 5 a.m. when they got the ATM out finally."
When it yanked free, it came through the front glass doors, ultimately causing around $30,000 in damage.
Queen learned of the break in after an employee's daughter drove by the store early Saturday morning and realized something was wrong. At first, she thought the door was standing wide open.
"Then she was like 'Oh no, it's not open. The door is laying out in the parking lot,'" Queen recounted.
Upon hearing this news, Queen set out as quickly as she could to her business.
"When I pulled in around 6 a.m. it looked like a bomb had gone off," said Queen. "I've been here 15 years and I have never had something like this happen."
Unfortunately, the alarm on the Short Stop malfunctioned and did not go off.
"It should have immediately alerted the police," said Queen. "If it would have gone off when they first busted the glass, all I would have had was a broken glass."
Though the alarm company hasn't admitted fault in the malfunctioning of the alarm, Queen said that the company is now upgrading her equipment for free.
Incidentally, she said that only $40 that was in the ATM at the time.
The Waynesville Police Department, who has been on the case since Saturday morning, have appealed to the public for assistance in identifying the suspects.
Luckily, they have a clear image of the van and license plate.
"They backed right up to the door," Queen said, which allowed her security cameras to record the tag number.
The Waynesville Police Department posted photos on Facebook from the surveillance footage of the van and of the hooded robbers seeking the public's help. They also alerted other law enforcement agencies in the region to be on the lookout.
"We are actively engaged in working with law enforcement in surrounding communities in an attempt to locate potential suspects in this incident," said Assistant Chief of Police Brandon Gilmore. "We have disseminated video footage to agencies across the state to see if they have dealt with similar occurrences."
The vehicle was a 2016 Ford Transit van with the tag number FBR-3188. Contact the WPD at 828-456-5363 or make an anonymous tip on the WPD Police App.