Rogersville police were dispatched to the Pizza Plus, 3934 Route 66, at 11:18 p.m. Sunday after a man wearing a ski mask and carrying a rifle with a laser sight took cash from the safe and possibly fled in a white vehicle. The Rogersville Police Department had a two-minute response time to the scene, but the gunman was already gone.
Police Chief Doug Nelson said the gunman initially met two employees outside. The suspect reportedly fired a shot into the air and then pointed the laser sight at an employee and told them both to get on the ground.
Employee Michael Sheppard saw the robber coming to the door with a weapon and attempted to hold the door shut, Nelson said. The suspect then fired a shot from the rifle into the glass door, causing it to shatter and injure Sheppard with the broken glass.
There were a total of five employees on duty at the time of the robbery. The gunman entered the store through the broken door and told the three employees inside to get on the ground or they would die. The robber took cash from the safe and fled the store.
Employees told police they believe he got into a white vehicle that sped from the scene immediately after the robbery.
The suspect was described as between 5 feet 10 inches and 6 feet tall and between 180 and 200 pounds. Nelson said employees indicated that the man was heavyset and not in good shape, but they couldn’t identify his race due to the ski mask and gloves. He was also wearing a gray pullover sweatshirt.
“They said they could tell he was heavily built and not in good shape just the way he was built,” Nelson said. “The white vehicle sped away right after he left the store, but they didn’t know if he was driving or if he had someone waiting for him.”
Sheppard was transported to the Hawkins County Memorial Hospital emergency room, where he was treated for cuts and released. Another employee was also cut by flying glass but didn’t require medical attention.
Nelson noted that in circumstances when a robber is only after money, the best thing to do is give up the cash.
“If all they’re wanting is money, cooperate as much as you can with them,” Nelson said. “If they’re wanting your life you’re going to have to take action. But if all they’re wanting is money, and they tell you up front, it’s best not to resist them.”
Police are asking anyone with information about the robbery to call the RPD at 272-7555.