The arrest of a suspect in a string of vicious armed robberies in Rock Hill and Fort Mill no doubt has many residents breathing a little easier.
Phillip Watts Jr., a Rock Hill man, has confessed to seven robberies, including three where two clerks, a former Fort Mill mayor and a customer were shot. Watts was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill in connection with last week's shooting at a Rock Hill check cashing business, and multiple charges in connection with the other robberies are pending.
York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant ranked this among the worst cases in which he has ever been involved.
"We've worked many, many homicides. I've never worked one that was as frightening as this individual and the chaos he's caused over the last three weeks," said Bryant Monday.
Any armed robbery is frightening for those involved. But in each of the three robberies that occurred recently, people were shot after they had complied with the robber's demands, which compounds the fear factor.
In the days after the robberies occurred, local store clerks, especially those who manned counters late at night or in isolated locations, were on edge, worried they might be next. Even customers had reason to worry; former Fort Mill Mayor Charlie Powers was shot in the face while entering a popular local quick stop after he unwittingly held the door for the robber.
Monday's arrest was the result of a combined effort of several law enforcement agencies. In addition to the sheriff's office, Fort Mill and Rock Hill police departments, the State Law Enforcement Division and the York County Forensic Services Unit were involved in the investigation. Police surrounded the condo in which the suspect was hiding and made the arrest.
This arrest comes as a relief to the entire community. To have arrested the suspect in the three brutal robberies that occurred within recent weeks was a coup for local law enforcement officers, and the potential of clearing four other robberies was a welcome bonus.
We are grateful that the suspect is in custody and that he was arrested without incident before he could harm anyone else.
A number of law enforcement agencies worked together to capture suspect.
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