May 6, 2011

Clever clerk, alert dispatcher instrumental in robbery arrest

Marathon – A clever store clerk and an alert Sheriff’s dispatcher were instrumental in the arrest of a would be robbery suspect today.

The clerk at the Tom Thumb store on 55th Street was outside sweeping at 2:30 a.m. when he saw 26 year old Phernando Hill of Orlando walk in the store. The clerk walked back in and stood behind the counter, watching as Hill walked around the store. Hill then approached the counter and asked the clerk for a single Black and Mild cigar, saying he’d pay 89 cents for it. The retail price of the cigar was $1.29 so the clerk refused the request. Hill became agitated and went outside the store, returning a few minutes later carrying a backpack which he put on the counter.

The clerk said he began to be afraid, because he didn’t know if there was a weapon in the bag. Hill took out a pair of broken sunglasses and asked the clerk to “plug them in”. When the clerk pointed out that the sunglasses couldn’t be “plugged in”, Hill got more agitated, demanding to speak with a manager. He threatened to hurt the clerk if he didn’t give him the manager’s phone number.

The clerk told him he’d call the manager, but instead, called 911 and asked for a manager. When Dispatcher Andrea Fricke heard the strange request, she knew something was wrong. As she listened on the phone line, she heard Hill making threats, then heard him yelling at the clerk to give him cigars and he would leave the store. She dispatched deputies to a suspicious situation, possibly a robbery, at the store.

When Deputies Nicholas Abroe, Thomas Hill (no relation to the suspect), David Minor and Monica Young arrived, Hill was still in the store. He was detained and the deputies began investigations into what had transpired.  As they questioned the clerk, Hill kept standing up and walking around, and yelling although he’d been ordered to sit quietly on the ground. Finally, deputies decided to put him in the back of a patrol car. At that point, he refused to walk outside and he had to be dragged from the store.

A search of his pockets turned up several items he had stolen from the store, including two cans of Red Bull, eight bottles of 5 Hour Energy drink and the cigars he’d demanded from the clerk.

Hill was charged with theft, attempted robbery and resisting arrest. He was booked into jail.

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