Meridian Star

November 30, 2012

'They came in like ninjas'

By Michael Stewart /
Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Men armed with sledge hammers busted out concrete cinderblocks on the back wall of the Mathis Super Corner convenience store on Valley Road late Wednesday night to gain entry and then jimmied open the store's safe, stealing a large sum of cash.

    "They were very well prepared," store owner Jim Mathis said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon. "It's not like they were crackheads getting some candy and a carton of cigarettes. These guys knew what they were doing."

    Mathis said video surveillance cameras inside the store captured images of two men, both wearing hooded jackets as they burglarized the store.

    "They came in like ninjas, crawling on the on floor," Mathis said.

    The video footage was turned over to the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, which is investigating the burglary.

    "We feel this video footage is our best chance of catching these individuals," said Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Chief Deputy Ward Calhoun.

    After gaining access the men spent more than 35 minutes inside the store, using heavy tools to break into the safe, Mathis said.

    Other than the cash, the only thing stolen was cigarettes and a few store items, he said.

    "It was like they were looking for money," Mathis said. "They just knew right where to go. They are more than amateurs. They are professionals."

    The burglary, which occurred around midnight, couldn't have happened at a worse time, Mathis said.

    Like many business owners, Mathis has been struggling since the recession and the store that has been in his family for 35 years took an added hit with the April 14, 2011 closing of the north end of Valley Road.

    Traffic — and customers — have dwindled dramatically since the closure, which was approved by the Lauderdale County Board of Supervisors at the request of Atlas Roofing Company, whose business spans both sides of Valley Road.

    Although he preferred not to disclose the amount of money stolen during the burglary, it was significant, Mathis said.

    "They really hurt me," Mathis said of the burglars. "I'm 60 years old. It makes me want to just close my doors."

    Mathis believes that the burglary would not have been possible prior to the road's closing when steady traffic passed by the store at all hours of the night.

    "Somebody would have seen them before, but now traffic has gone down to nothing," Mathis said. "I just feel this wouldn't have happened if they hadn't closed the road."

    Mathis hopes the burglars are caught.

    "I don't expect to get any of my money back," he said. "It's hard to get blood out of a turnip. I just want these guys off the street."

    Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information that leads to the arrest of those involved in the burglar. Callers remain anonymous.

    The Crime Stoppers number in Lauderdale County is (601) 485-1860.