Pawn shop employee: "He was alone and he had a plan" - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Pawn shop employee: "He was alone and he had a plan"

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The make-shift memorial outside the U.S. Money Shop on Brainerd Road continues to grow.

Keith Liberty, a shop employee, was one of several people to kneel and say a prayer Tuesday. Liberty was inside the shop when it was robbed Saturday.

"He was definitely by himself," said Liberty, "and he had a plan."

Only able to see the whites of his eyes, Liberty says there was something familiar about the man police say tried to rob his store and killed Sergeant Tim Chapin.

"The voice sounded familiar through the mask," said Liberty, "it could have just been him casing the place out, but I'm not really sure."

It would have been easy for 25 year-old Jesse Mathews to keep an eye on the shop. He was living less than a mile away.

"You just never know, I mean I thought that dude was okay," said one of Mathews' neighbors, "and then the next thing you know here he is on the news for that."

The neighbor didn't want to be identified, but says he watched as police searched the apartment where Mathews was living with the woman he called his girlfriend.

"They had boxes of everything," said the neighbor, "you couldn't see in them."

Lentz Reynolds, Rustic Village Apartment Manager, says a criminal background check is required of all tenants.

Mathews, with his record, would not have been approved, but the female he was staying with was.

"She has only been here about two weeks and we had done a full background check," said Reynolds, "and everything checked out fine."

Neighbors have not seen the young woman, or her vehicle, in days.

Police will not say if she has been questioned, but employees of the pawn shop say Mathews acted alone.

For now, their attention is set on the officer who gave his life, protecting theirs.

"We feel sorry for the fallen officer," said Liberty, "he literally put his life on the line for us, and that never should have happened."

Jesse Mathews served less than eight years of a 20 year sentence for at least ten armed robberies.

Mathews is at Erlanger. His condition is not being released, but Eyewitness News has reason to believe he's under heavy guard.

The Chattanooga Police Department plans to release more about the investigation after Sergeant Chapin's funeral.

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