Drug store robber caught during getaway
A regular customer at Massey’s Drug on Cloverdale Road was arrested within five minutes after he reportedly robbed the business of pain medication Tuesday by threatening a clerk with a hunting knife.
Freddie Balentine, 52, 107 Castlewood Court, Florence, is charged with pharmacy robbery and is being held in the Lauderdale County Detention Center, according to police.
Balentine is accused of walking into the drug store at the intersection of Davis Street and Cloverdale Road at 12:58 p.m., pulling his shirt up over his mouth, shoving a hunting knife toward a clerk and demanding the medication.
“Once he had the pills, he told the clerks to wait for five minutes before they called the police,” Florence police detective Justin Wright said. “When he left, he was eating some of the pills.”
Wright said Balentine, who lives less than a half mile from the business in Heathrow subdivision, was identified by three of the workers. He said no other customers were in the store when the robbery occurred.
“Apparently, he walked to the drug store and then was going to walk away but he didn’t make it,” Wright said.
Florence police officers Marcell Craft and Mickey Hines arrested Balentine on Hughes Street without incident less than five minutes after the robbery occurred.
“I guess he thought the employees were going to wait that five minutes before they called us, which they didn’t,” Wright said.
He said Craft and Hines were nearby preparing for a funeral escort when they heard the robbery call.
“As soon as they got there they started searching and located him walking on Hughes Street,” Wright said. The street is less than a block from the business.
According to witnesses, Balentine stopped at a residence on Hughes Street to ask for some water just before he was spotted.
“I was a little nervous when I saw all of those police cars all over the street,” resident Nell Hamilton said. “My neighbor had called and told me what was going on, so I was looking out my front window with the door locked. I’m just glad they were able to catch him.”
When Balentine was taken into custody, Wright said officers found more than 100 pain pills as well as some pills that he had chewed. He said officials found some of the pills on the street.
Pharmacy robbery is a Class A felony, punishable by 10 years to life in prison. Robbery of a pharmacy, however, carries an enhanced penalty that prohibits parole.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.