Suspects on the Loose After Dollar General Robbery

Man Shields Daughter from Shotgun-Wielding Bandits 

RIDGEWAY – The Fairfield County Sheriff’s Office is on the lookout for two men after a harrowing armed assault on the Dollar General in Ridgeway last week.

According to the Sheriff’s Office, 40-year-old Vernon Hudson Jr. and his wife, Heather, 40, of Winnsboro, were outside the Dollar General at 260 N. Dogwood Road just before 10 p.m. Oct. 9. Heather was sitting in the driver’s seat of her 2005 Suzuki Forenza, while Vernon stood just outside of his 2000 Silverado pickup truck in the store parking lot. Inside the store, their daughter, 23-year-old Shandana Desillrea Hudson, was at work as the business prepared to close for the evening, and she wasn’t feeling well. Her father had just brought her her asthma medicine, while mom had brought up medicine for nausea. As Vernon and Heather waited for their daughter to clock out, two black males armed with pump-action shotguns came running into view from around the corner of the store, laughing as they ran. Suspect One was described as short and stocky, approximately 5-foot-6, 160-170 pounds, with an Afro and wearing a black covering over his face. Suspect Two was described as tall and skinny, approximately 5-foot-10, 130-140 pounds, wearing black pants with a white T-shirt pulled over his face.

Suspect Two approached the vehicle and pointed his shotgun in Heather’s face, demanding money. While they were held at gunpoint, they saw Suspect One enter the store. Suspect Two then turned his shotgun to Vernon and ordered him into the store. As the second suspect marched Vernon into the Dollar General, Heather began dialing 9-1-1 on her cell phone. But Suspect Two turned back toward the car, aimed the shotgun at her face, racked a round into the chamber and told her to give up the phone. With Heather’s phone now in his possession, Suspect Two then forced Vernon into the business, the shotgun pointed squarely at Vernon’s back.

“My wife said I was crazy for going in there,” Vernon told The Voice just days after the incident. “But what was I supposed to do? Let them go in there and shoot my daughter?”

Inside the Dollar General, Shandana Hudson was working in the makeup and clothing aisle. She heard her father call out to her from the front of the store, alerting her that the store was being robbed. Slowly, she approached the front of the store, where Suspect One was standing at the register. When Suspect One demanded that she open the safe, Shandana told him only the manager could do so. Suspect Two then appeared, pointed his shotgun at her and told Shandana and her father not to move. Shandana then began having difficulty breathing. Vernon stepped to assist her, but was halted by Suspect Two, who ordered Vernon onto the floor. But Vernon refused.

“I am just going over to my daughter,” Vernon was quoted in the Sheriff’s Office report, “because she is having an asthma attack.”

Suspect Two told him to do it slowly, and Vernon inched his way to his daughter and wrapped himself around her, shielding her from the armed invaders.

“Don’t move,” Suspect Two reportedly barked. “I’ll blow your brains out.”

“I grabbed her and held her,” Vernon told The Voice. “I put her against the wall and told her everything would be all right. If they shoot, they’ll shoot me. Then I told him to go on and do what you’ve got to do or shut up.

“That’s just me,” Vernon added, “especially when it comes to my kids, because I love them to death.”

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Leslie Ann Champion of Ridgeway, the store manager, was in her office cleaning up for the night. Suddenly, Suspect One appeared in her doorway. He aimed his shotgun at her head and ordered her to open the store safe. As she was lead through the store, she could see Shandana and her father being held at gunpoint. The top half of the safe, she told Suspect One, was time delayed. Champion then took approximately $650 from the bottom half of the safe, stuffed it into a Dollar General bag and handed it over to Suspect One.

In the parking lot, Heather Hudson saw the suspects flee the building, running back around the side of the store whence they came.

Shandana later told investigators that Suspect One, although wearing a mask, looked familiar. She said he may have been the same man who had come into the store two hours before the robbery to purchase an item. In fact, she said, he may even be a regular customer. Vernon told investigators the next day that he may have spotted the suspects at the Waffle House on Highway 34 only hours after the robbery. Vernon said his family was having dinner at the Waffle House at around 12:30 a.m. Oct. 10 when three men came into the restaurant. Two of the men, he said, fit the description of the robbery suspects – one short and stocky, with an Afro; the other tall and skinny. Vernon told investigators that he approached the men and began questioning them about the robbery and the hours leading up to the armed assault. The man with the Afro, he said, told him that he had gone into the Dollar General that night around 9 o’clock to purchase cigarettes, but denied being involved in the robbery.

Vernon told the Sheriff’s Office that after he had spoken to the men, they asked the waiter to make their orders to go, took their food and left the Waffle House in a blue Crown Vic with 22-inch rims, heading toward Ridgeway.

The Sheriff’s Office said the Ridgeway incident may be connected to several other Dollar General robberies that had occurred in recent weeks in North and South Carolina, and at press time they were following up on several leads. Vernon told The Voice Tuesday that his wife’s cell phone had been found in the Blythewood area, but it had not yet been recovered and examined by investigators.

“Something needs to be done about it,” Vernon said. “I want both of those boys caught. They put a gun to my wife’s head twice and put a gun to my daughter.”

Both women are traumatized, Vernon said, and are having difficulty sleeping at night.

“My wife and my daughter are both fearful,” he said, “but it angered me.”

 

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