NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Donelson liquor store has taken measures into their own hands after alleged thieves struck twice, stealing expensive liquor and allegedly threatening employees with violence.
The employees at Priest Point Liquors told News 2 they posted the surveillance pictures of two suspects because they don’t feel safe and are dissatisfied with the police response, as well as the actions of 911 operators who put them on hold.
According to store employees, the first incident happened on Thursday, Jan. 26, at around 7:20 p.m.
That’s when a man and woman driving a Red Kia Forte reportedly went into the store and, according to the manager who has video of the duo, began stealing two very expensive bottles of tequila.
Stephanie Clark was working that night. The mother of three said she remembered things getting tense quickly as one of her managers noticed the shoplifting and confronted the duo who put the $105 tequilla in their pants and jackets.
She recalled her manager saying to the woman, “Please take that out of your pants. Please take the bottles out of your pants.”
Clarks said before confronting the duo, she dialed her boss on one phone and called Metro 911 on the other phone in her hands.
According to store employees, the couple left with the stolen liquor, only to return to the store because they left their car keys somewhere in the store.
As the man and woman began looking for their car keys, Clark said things grew more intense and the couple became more agitated.
At this point, Clark said her co-worker, who called 911 several minutes earlier about the shop lifting, was still on hold. Clark said her boss would love to tell them to get police there right away because there was now fear among employees that what began as a shoplifting was going to radically escalate.
“911 put her on hold for about five minutes before they picked up. It could’ve been, she could’ve been seriously injured,” Clark said.
At one point, managers told News 2 the man allegedly threatened to harm the female manager, indicating that he also had a weapon under his bulky coat.
“He’s going to some kind of physical violence against her,” Clark said. “He lifted his shirt, like he has a weapon, and he was saying, ‘I am going to smack the **** out of you,’ and like other, he was following her around the store, and he did touch her at one point, and she jerked and said, ‘Do not touch me.'”
In the end, the angry man found his keys, walked back to the tequila rack where it all began and defiantly, angrily snatched a bottle off the shelf before walking out of the store with the unpaid for bottle in plain site.
According to store surveillance, the thieves entered the store at 7:23 p.m. Store surveillance also revealed Metro police didn’t arrive on scene until 9:15 p.m., almost two hours after the store manager first called 911 and was put on hold.
“You can’t get here when we are calling you, and first an automated system puts you on hold and it could be a gunshot and seconds count, and all of a sudden what you are letting them know, ‘Hey, there’s a person. This is happening and now they’re threatening me,’ and they are still in the store, and they’re like, we’ll get there whenever.”
The same couple came back to the same store six days later and allegedly stole more liquor.
This time, another manager followed them for miles to Murfreesboro Road. He told News 2 he was on the phone with 911, relaying the alleged thieves’ position hoping they will send a Metro police car to intercept them.
The manager told News 2 he thought he saw the couple passing a pipe back and forth. Eventually, Metro dispatchers told the manager to stop following the car, so he stopped.
According to the manager, officers came to the store to take a report on the shoplifting approximately eight hours later.
As it relates to the police response time to each incident, which was two hours the first time and close to eight hours the second time, Metro police said the 911 calls were initially dispatched as active shoplifting calls.
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Metro Nashville’s Department of Emergency Communication sent News 2 the following email regarding police response times:
“Regarding the Jan. 26th call(s), we received the first of two calls from an employee in the store at 7:35 p.m. which came directly to our Communications Center and was processed reporting a theft in progress with suspects (a Priority 2, which is the second to highest priority) sitting outside in their car. The caller advised the suspects could not leave because they left their car keys in the store. Dispatchers created an incident to send officers at 7:39 p.m. Officers were ultimately assigned to respond at 9 p.m.
“A second call was received on Jan. 26th from the store owner, who was not on site, at 7:44 p.m. This call routed through a cell tower in Smyrna to the Rutherford County Sherriff’s Office via a cell tower at 7602 Rocky Ford Road in Smyrna, which was then transferred to the Metro Nashville Department of Emergency Communications when the incident was determined to be in our jurisdiction. This is the ‘hold’ experienced by this caller; a 12-second transfer time between the two dispatch centers. This caller advised he was reviewing closed-circuit television footage at his home watching the suspects coming in and out of the store harassing the employees, which was added to the initial incident narrative.
“We are still researching how and when the Jan. 26th call was dispatched or updates were provided by dispatchers to officers regarding this incident.
“Regarding the Feb. 1st call, our dispatcher did encourage the caller not to follow the suspects to avoid potential harm to himself or others which is in line with best practices. We continue researching whether this call was handled to our quality standards specific to obtaining suspect information during this call.”