Just when it seemed that things could not get worse for York landscaper Eddie Nivens – his truck and tools worth $35,000 were stolen from a Bojangle’s restaurant while he was cutting the grass – his week turned into a mine collapse.
The owner of Cutting Edge Lawn and Landscape got his truck back after some quick police work by Lancaster County deputies, but he learned that his bank account had been cleaned out – and clothes and a gun stolen from his truck might have been used in an attempted armed robbery.
“Me, my family, we are scared,” Nivens said. “They got my keys, my garage door opener, my information. Who knows what these people will do next?”
The crime wave started Tuesday morning when Nivens and his crew were working the grounds at a Bojangle’s in Indian Land in northern Lancaster County. Nivens has a contract for more than 20 of the restaurants in South Carolina and North Carolina.
“We got out, I left the keys on the floorboard of the truck, and we went to work,” Nivens said.
His crew was using weed whackers and lawn cutters until one worker started screaming that the truck was being driven away, already at a nearby traffic light. Nivens and the others called 911, police responded, and the investigation showed that the thieves apparently had gone through the drive-through line of the restaurant, ordered food – including asking for ketchup – then jumped out and stole the truck with the trailer attached.
On the truck and trailer were Nivens’ livelihood of tools and equipment.
Also inside the truck were some of Nivens’ personal and business documents, financial records, his cellphone, two pistols and ammunition he keeps for protection.
The investigation showed that the thieves left behind a stolen vehicle nabbed days before in Charlotte, and in that vehicle was at least one gun and drugs. There were also masks, gloves and ball bats, Nivens said police told him.
“These guys must have been robbing places,” Nivens said.
By Wednesday morning, Nivens still had to make a living, so he sent his crew out before dawn and the workers stopped for gas. They tried to use Nivens’ debit card, but it was declined.
Nivens called his bank and found out his account had been drained and had already gone into arrears. Total loss: more than $10,000.
“I didn’t even have gas to get to the next red light,” Nivens said.
His bank helped him with emergency cash and started a fraud investigation.
The day got better.
Police found the truck parked near an old home on Dobys Bridge Road just north of where it had been stolen from. Nivens was able to recover it, along with some of the tools, after police had gone it looking for evidence.
“They took me for about $4,000 in stuff,” he said, “but at least I got the truck and most of the tools back.”
Nivens had to pay a dealership for a new set of keys.
Then the roof fell in.
On Thursday, Lancaster police released a video of an attempted armed robbery at an ATM Wednesday night. The video showed the thief wearing a camouflage jacket.
“I saw the picture,” Nivens said, “and I said, ‘That’s my rain jacket I kept in the toolbox of the truck.’ ”
He called police again to let detectives know that he believes that the would-be robber had been wearing his stolen jacket.
No arrests have been made in any of the crimes, said Doug Barfield, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, but Lancaster deputies have been investigating since Tuesday morning with detective teams.
“We are very actively pursuing the persons responsible for this crime,” Barfield said Friday. Lancaster police are handling the ATM crime, he said, but deputies shared information to see if the cases are linked.
On Friday, Nivens went to his bank to open a new account. He worried about his son, who just joined the Army two weeks ago and is in basic training. His lined face, sunburned and hard, had no smile.
“I want these guys caught,” Nivens said. “This has been some week.”
Then he hopped in the truck, filled with tools and mulch and other landscaping stuff, and left to try and make a dollar before something else happened.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065 • firstname.lastname@example.org