The victim was trying to sell a Hawkins County couple a necklace and jacket when would-be buyer Michael Francis Baggatta allegedly pulled out a pistol and threatened to blow the man’s head off.
“The victim told him, ‘If you’re going to shoot me, just go ahead and shoot me,’ and he got in his car,” said Surgoinsville Police Department Chief James Hammonds. “(The victim later) told me, ‘I’m 61 years old and I’ve had cerebral palsy my whole life.’ He said, ‘I ain’t scared of no gun.’ But he said, ‘It did frighten me a little bit when he pointed it at my head and said he was going to blow my head off.’ ”
Baggatta, 30, 445 Wolfe Branch Road, Bulls Gap, and Whitney Sierra Greene, 21, 180 Broadway Drive, Bean Station, were later arrested at the Rogersville Walmart, where Greene had been detained for allegedly shoplifting crayons, coloring books and a pocketbook.
The Ford pickup the couple were using, as well as the handgun, were later reported stolen from Baggatta’s mother. Hammonds said Baggatta and Greene allegedly took the truck and firearm while his mother was at work.
Robbery at the Surgoinsville Car Wash
The robbery occurred at 3:45 p.m. at the car wash on Main Street in Surgoinsville.
“The victim originally met them at the Surgoinsville Mini-Mart,” Hammonds said. “He saw them sitting there, and he was out trying to sell a necklace and some perfume to make a little extra money. He’s got cerebral palsy, and he just tries to flip stuff he buys at yard sales to make extra money.”
The suspects reportedly told the victim they were meeting Baggatta’s mother, who had cash, at the nearby Surgoinsville Car Wash on Main Street.
At the car wash, Baggatta tried on the necklace, which the victim offered for $40, and also asked to try on the victim’s Baltimore Orioles jacket, which wasn’t originally offered for sale, but the victim said he would take $25 for it.
“When (Baggatta) tried the jacket on, he just walked over and got in the truck,” Hammonds said. “By this time (Greene) had gotten in the driver’s seat. The victim realized they were fixing to take off with his stuff, so he walked over to them and said, ‘Just give me my stuff.’ About that time (Baggatta) pulled out a handgun from his waistband area, pointed it at (the victim) and demanded the victim’s keys, wallet and phone.
“The victim walked away from him, and that’s when (Baggatta) got out of the truck and followed him pointing the gun and demanding the victim hand over his stuff or he’d blow his head off.”
Video surveillance identifies suspects
After taking a statement from the victim, Hammonds obtained video surveillance photos of the couple and the pickup they were driving, and a BOLO (be on the lookout) was issued for them.
Around 5:40 p.m., Rogersville’s animal control officer spotted the truck at the Route 66 Walmart, and several officers in unmarked vehicles descended on the parking lot and waited for the couple to exit the store and return to the truck.
When Baggatta left the store he was arrested, and a black Ruger handgun was allegedly found on his person. He was reportedly still wearing the stolen necklace, and the stolen jacket was in the pickup.
By that time, however, Greene had been detained by Walmart loss prevention personnel for allegedly trying to walk out without paying for coloring books, crayons and a pocketbook.
Female suspect surprised by gun
Greene later told Hammonds that Baggatta had indicated as they were traveling between the mini-mart and car wash that he was going to take the victim’s stuff.
“She figured he’d just punch him and take it and didn’t realize he had a gun until he pulled it and threatened to blow the guy’s head off as he chased after him,” Hammonds said.
Both were charged with aggravated robbery, and Baggatta was additionally charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a firearm during commission of a felony.
At the time of his arrest, Baggatta was free on $25,000 bond from a meth trafficking arrest in Hawkins County in September.
Both were being held in the Hawkins County Jail with no bond pending arraignment set for Monday.