UPDATE 3: Police distracted before Whitwell pharmacy robbery
WHITWELL, MARION COUNTY, TN (WRCB) -- Brick veneer and wafer board are no match for determined thieves, after prescription gold.
"We've had 2 other attempted thefts, but they never got anything," pharmacist Steve Ireland says. "They backed the truck through, hard to guard against that."
The truck backed into the front wall of Whitwell Pharmacy sometime between 2 and 2:30 Tuesday morning.
"They knew what they were looking for; bypassed a lot of stuff to get straight to the medicine cabinet," Ireland says. "Oxycontin, methadone, oxycodone type medications,"
"Prescription pills are a major problem in this area," Whitwell Police Chief Rodney Easterly concedes.
"I'm out thousands of dollars," Ireland says. "Regretfully, I didn't have a security camera. Police aren't sharing any of that surveillance video, but they believe the thieves had a protective device on the truck's bumper.
The crash impact triggered the pharmacy's screamer alarm, Ireland says. The thieves completed their heist within four minutes.
"The police department's within rock throwing distance," Ireland says. "They set a car on fire or truck on fire. A stolen truck!
"We believe that was meant to be a distraction," Chief Easterly says. "To put the officer on the other side of town."
Whitwell's lone officer on duty found Rebecca Puryear's '84 Chevy Silverado pickup burning on Highway 28, right past the city limits.
"They (the thieves) might have had a key, but I doubt it," Puryear tells Eyewitness News. "I think it was a redneck hotwire."
Her antique is a total loss. She carried no insurance.
"It was being cherried out. It was being restored," Puryear says. "Our goal was to take it to auto shows."
Less than seven hours after the crash-and-grab, Whitwell Pharmacy re-opened.
"It's the second of the month, people need their medicines," Ireland says.
His wholesaler has replaced some of the stolen medication. A remodeling crew tore away the remaining brick to re-set the pharmacy's front wall.
"I'm still doing my inventory," Ireland says.
By law, the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have joined the investigation.
It's not clear, beyond felony burglary, what charges the suspect might face, Chief Easterly says.
If you have any information about this case, call the Whitwell Police Department at 423-658-5151.