Persistence can’t pry safe away

HOPE — If at first you don’t first succeed, try, try again, or so the saying goes.

Three would-be male robbers used that approach — without success, however — after attempting to burglarize the Dollar General store in Hope on two consecutive nights.

The first attempt at the store, located at 9170 State Road 9 North, was discovered at 4:47 a.m. Sunday, Hope Town Marshal Matt Tallent said.

After using a crowbar to pry open the emergency exit on the west side of the building, the suspects tied a tow rope to the store safe and attempted to pull it outside with a vehicle, Tallent said.

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But evidence suggests that when the rope broke, the burglars abandoned the effort and left empty-handed, he said.

Suspecting another burglary might be attempted, Tallent asked Hope Police Department reserve officer Skyler Hollin to keep the store across from Hauser Jr.-Sr. High School under surveillance the next evening.

Shortly after 3 a.m. Monday, Hollin saw a silver pickup truck pull into the parking lot off County Road 600N and back up to the emergency exit door, Tallent said.

The reserve officer saw three males whose faces were covered with masks get out and pry open the emergency exit, he said.

But when the suspects tried to pull the safe outside with a rope for a second straight night, this time Hollin attempted to stop them, the marshal said.

Although the officer had blocked the store’s only exit with his vehicle, the three suspects ran to their truck, cut through the grass and escaped by heading westbound on 600N, he said.

Hollin chased the suspects for a little more than a mile as the truck crossed Haw Creek, turned right onto County Road 500E, and continued through two sharp turns onto County Road 525E, the department said.

That’s when two of the suspects jumped out and ran west through a field as the pickup driver continued north, Tallent said. Although Hollin briefly tried to follow the two runners on foot, he soon lost sight of them in the dark, Tallent said.

Police dogs from both the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Columbus Police Department were brought to the scene, but the K-9s lost track of the runners after tracking them for more than an hour, he said.

Investigators are following up on leads from the second burglary attempt, including surveillance images of two of the suspects, as well as Hollin’s dashboard camera video of the pursuit.

Hope police have also recovered a tow rope, chain and two-wheel dolly that was used by the burglars, he said. In addition, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department is continuing to offer its assistance, the marshal said.

The Hope Police Department is also working with a forensic company in an effort to obtain a better resolution from the video to get the license-plate number of the truck, Tallent said.

How to help

People who have information about successive break-ins at the Dollar General in Hope early Sunday and Monday are asked to call the Hope Police Department at 812-546-4015. Tips and information can be left anonymously.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.