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911 caller helps police nab Chatham robbery suspect

A robbery, a chase, a fatal crash and a manhunt all finally came to an end after a resident alerted authorities about an injured man who approached her home.

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PITTSBORO, N.C. — One person was killed Thursday in a crash that ended a police chase in Chatham County and also prompted a manhunt for another suspect in a robbery in which a store owner was beaten.

The incident began early Thursday afternoon, when three men robbed a Siler City store on North Chatham Avenue, officials said. It ended when Chatham sheriff's deputies captured a suspect in Pittsboro after getting a 911 call about an injured man encountered by an area resident.

"Right in the middle of downtown. Right in the middle of the day,” said Robert Wicker, who owns a business next door to the store that was robbed.

The owner fought back, turning over counters in the struggle.

"His right eye was shut pretty badly where they had beaten him pretty good,” Wicker said.

A sheriff's deputy, who was in the area during the time of the robbery, noticed a white sport utility vehicle speeding and being driven erratically.

Deputies began pursuing the SUV and chased it toward the Rocky River on N.C. Highway 902. The SUV collided with a truck near Dewitt Smith Road and the Rocky River bridge.

It “hit one vehicle, went off the road and ended up in the ditch,” Chatham County Sheriff Richard Webster said.

One person in the vehicle was killed in the crash, and a second was less seriously hurt and was arrested.  No one in the truck was injured.

Deputies began a manhunt for the third occupant on foot and using a police dog and carried it on for several hours in the crash area and along the river.

The Sheriff’s Office notified residents of a potentially dangerous robbery suspect within five miles of the area, using the reverse 911 calling system.

Deputies got a break from a citizen's call to 911.

"Well, we got a phone call,” Webster said.

A woman called 911 and said a man had approached her home and he appeared to be injured.

“The gentleman did not want us to call the cops. He said that he had flipped his truck three or four times,” the caller told 911 dispatchers.

The caller also said the suspect was heading to Pittsboro, which is where police arrested the third suspect, Capt. Roy Allen said.  

The suspect was transported to a hospital for treatment of injuries received in the crash.

“We are greatly relieved that we were able to notify people of the potential danger, but even more relieved that we were able to get the third suspect in custody fairly quickly,” Allen said. 

Deputies withheld the names of the suspects, including the person killed.

The alleged getaway SUV was impounded so it can be searched for evidence. Investigators were paying particular attention to what appeared to be a rifle inside the vehicle.

The store owner who was attacked was in the hospital Thursday evening recovering from his injuries.