The Fort Mill and Rock Hill Police departments have joined forces with the York County Sheriff's Office to probe similarities between Thursday's armed robbery at a Cherry Road check cashing business and two other recent incidents.
"We've had three high-profile robberies within the last three weeks," Lt. Tim Hager of the sheriff's office said during a brief press conference Friday at the York County Detention Center. "Obviously, the similarities between the three (cases) has brought us here today."
Hager declined to discuss the similarities. But in each case, at least one person was shot, with victims in at least two of the cases shot after complying with the robber's demands. The triggerman in each case was black and wore dark colored clothing and either a toboggan or a bandana, according to police or witnesses.
In Thursday's incident, the triggerman grabbed 42-year-old Ida Neal Lord of Rock Hill around her neck as she stood in the lobby area of Cash on the Spot near the intersection of South Cherry Road and Heckle Boulevard. He placed a handgun against the side of her head and fired a shot. Lord was shot in the head and back.
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"I've never seen anything this cold in 16 years," Kevin Tolson of the York County Forensic Services Unit said after Friday's press conference.
Lord was airlifted to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, where she was listed in critical condition Friday, a hospital spokesman said. The shooting Thursday followed two similar shootings in Rock Hill and Fort Mill.
On Friday, Capt. Bryan Zachary of the Fort Mill Police Department, Capt. Jerry Hoffman of the sheriff's office and Lt. Larry Vaughan of the Rock Hill Police Department met Friday to talk about the cases.
"There are some similarities that lead us to believe it may be the same guy," Hager said. "His demeanor at this point and time has been very calm and cool. That concerns us."
Cash on the Spot district manager Johnny Starnes said two employees were in the building Thursday when Lord was shot.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to the victim," Starnes said.
Store video shows the triggerman was dressed in dark clothing and a white do-rag, Starnes said.
"He basically did not give anybody any time before he walked up and shot her," Starnes said.
The man was in the business for nine minutes, police said.
Manager Darrell Starnes closed the business after the robbery. It reopened Friday.
"You can expect to be robbed, but for someone to grab a customer and do that to her is horrendous," he said Thursday.
Third shooting incident
Thursday's shooting marked the third shooting at a York County business in 17 days. The shooting came nine days after former Fort Mill Mayor Charlie Powers and store clerk Yen Nguyen were shot during an armed robbery at John Boy's Valero in Fort Mill. Powers, who was shot in the face, was released the next morning from Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. No information was available Friday on Nguyen, who was shot in the stomach. She had been listed in fair condition as late as Thursday.
On Jan. 28, a gunman fired twice and shot 40-year-old Ping Chen in her right shoulder and left hand as she attempted to cover her face during a robbery at Rock Hill's Saltwater Seafood Market.
Officials have said Nguyen and Chen complied with the gunman's request, but were shot anyway. The triggerman has not been arrested in either case.
Patsy Krepps, who has known Lord for about 20 years, said Thursday's shooting left her scared.
"I cried all afternoon," Krepps said. "She is a good person, and she really didn't deserve that."
What's more, Krepps works at a convenience store, which made for a tense day at work Friday.
"I was scared when I went to work, and I looked over my shoulder all day," said Krepps, a convenience store worker for nine years. "My nerves have been torn up ever since this happened."
Dianne Neely, who lives three houses away from Lord, only learned Friday morning that her neighbor had been shot.
"She was just innocent," Neely said. "For them to just shot her for no reason, that's stupid. People don't think."
Thursday's shooter is described as a black man whose age could range from that of a teenager to early 20s. Anyone with information should call the York County Sheriff's Office at 628-3059 or York County CrimeStoppers at 1-877-409-4321.