By Debbie Rolen
FREEBURN, Ky. — For the second time within two weeks, Kentucky State Police from Post 9, Pikeville, received a call regarding a robbery at Bella’s Gas & Go in the Freeburn community of Pike County.
At 11:48 p.m. Thursday officers at the scene learned that two unidentified men allegedly entered the business and demanded money. The two men reportedly fled the scene on foot with an undisclosed amount of cash in the direction of the West Virginia state line. One man was described as wearing a blue hooded sweatshirt, black pants and gloves. The second man was described as wearing a black sweatshirt with a fluorescent yellow baseball cap.
On Jan. 13, at around midnight, employees say video surveillance shows the same two men came in and robbed the store at gunpoint.
One of the store’s owners, Talbert Farley, said the store had never been robbed before, according to Bert Hatfield, who previously operated the business as Jo-Mart.
The business is located on the Kentucky side of the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, which is one of the reasons Farley believes the robbers targeted the store.
“It’s a quick getaway from Kentucky to West Virginia, and being open 24 hours a day increases the possibility of that happening at any store,” Farley said. “They parked on the West Virginia side and walked over. They have been observed several times on video surveillance, which explains how they knew how to get around on the property and avoid some of the lights.
“That may work against them because the snow allowed police to get quite a bit of evidence, especially where one of them tripped and fell,” Farley said.
Farley went on to say he is sure law enforcement will be able to bring the two to justice.
“The Kentucky State Police and both the Pike County and Mingo County Sheriff’s Departments have some leads they are following from things they observed from video surveillance obtained from both robberies,” he said.
There is concern about the future of the business because of these incidents and Farley says it would be a shame to have to change the number of hours the business is open.
“These two people seemed to be very nervous and agitated. They threatened to shoot if they didn’t get the money. They even had the cashier lift up the drawer to be sure no money was left in the drawer,” he said. “This being a poor economy right now, people aren’t buying as much, so there are no funds for upgraded security. If I have to close the night shift down, it would put three people out of work. If this continues, I will have to do that.
“I don’t want to do that. I need these people to work and they need to work, but I don’t want them to risk their lives working late at night,” Farley said. “My brothers and I operate several businesses in the area and this is the only one that we’ve had any trouble with.”
No injuries were reported in either incident, and Farley says the cashiers have been taught not to argue or fight if they are confronted during a robbery.
These incidents remain under investigation by Kentucky State Police Trooper Adam Wright. Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is asked to contact Kentucky State Police Post 9, Pikeville, at 606 433-7711 or 1-800-222-5555.