ROCK HILL — If the alleged masked thief with a blue hoodie needed help, Eugene Duncan would have gladly offered it.
But the suspect described as a 6-foot-tall man with a blue hoodie, possible red baseball cap and black basketball shorts affixed with red and white stripes didnt ask any questions when he ran inside Dinks Produce Market Tuesday morning, jumped behind a counter and snatched a cash box from the register, according to police.
Then, he ran. And the 59-year-old Duncan (who tells people hes really 29) chased him.
He was a whole lot faster than I was, Duncan said Tuesday outside his store. I wouldve caught him if I were a year younger.
Duncan chased the suspect down a long corridor until the thief ducked into a passageway and headed toward the woods on Albright Road. He grabbed the suspects hoodie, but the thief --cash box in hand-- slapped Duncans hand away and kept sprinting. By Tuesday evening, police were still looking for him.
Police gathered outside the South Heckle Boulevard store at about 10:55 a.m., surrounding it in crime scene tape and speaking with witnesses. A K9 unit was dispatched to find the suspect, who did not threaten any witnesses in the store or wield a weapon, said Mark Bollinger, Rock Hill Police spokesman. Some potential witnesses, he said, were in Dink's parking lot at the time of the incident but they left before police could interview them.
Duncan and his wife, Kathy Dink Duncan, have owned the produce market on South Heckle Boulevard for the last eight years. Duncan says his watermelons, kiwis, strawberries and plums are some of the most affordable in town. More than that, they help people.
We help people out all the time, Duncan said. We try to make the whole community a family.
Members of that family came one after the other once police left the store. Some went to buy groceries, but many wanted to check on the Duncans. Its not uncommon, Duncan said, for customers --especially the elderly living on fixed incomes-- to realize they dont have enough money to pay for their groceries once its rung at the counter. More times than not, Duncan lets them leave with the tomato or head of lettuce they couldnt afford.
(The suspect) could have walked in, said Im hungry and he would have been fed, said James Lindsay, Duncans best friend for the past 15 years who often rides by the store daily to check on him. He had just pulled up to the store when he saw Duncan running.
If I knew, Id try my best to catch that guy, Lindsay said. The police, they wouldnt be looking for him.
Were just an old country store...you dont have to rob us, Kathy Duncan said of the thief. If you had to feed your family, come to us...we would have helped you.
But Kathy Duncan feels no pity for an alleged criminal who could have put her family in danger.
You dont mess with my family, you dont mess with my husband, you dont mess with my grandchildren, she said. Whomever did this, I have no pity for him. If one of my customers got hurt, there would have been no imagination of my fury.
To the thief, Lindsay advises: Dont show up around here no more.
What youve done is stupid, but you shouldve come and asked for help, Duncan said of the suspect. You aint got to steal.