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Man robs east Camden store at knifepoint

Two arrested in meth lab bust

Posted: July 19, 2011 4:41 p.m.
Updated: July 20, 2011 5:00 a.m.

A man wielding a large knife robbed the Dollar General on Jefferson Davis Highway in east Camden early Friday afternoon.

“The man came in and acted like a shopper,” Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews said Tuesday. “There were other shoppers in the store who were oblivious to what was going on. He came up to the counter with a cart and said he’d forgotten his wallet. He said he was going out to his car but then came back with a large knife.”

Matthews said the man ordered the female cashier to empty the register and pulled out the knife. He said the cashier told the suspect the manager would have to open the register because she didn’t have a key.

“The manager came up and the suspect took a swipe across his shirt with the knife but didn’t cut him,” Matthews said.

He said the manager was forced to open the registers and a safe. Matthews asked the media not to disclose the amount of money taken from the store.

According to a Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) report, after getting the money the suspect made both the cashier and the manager go to the back of the store before he left the scene.

“We brought the bloodhounds, but they couldn’t get a thing,” Matthews said. “That makes us think he had a car stashed nearby or someone picked him up. Surveillance shows him on a cell phone while he was in the store, so he may have been talking to an accomplice.

The man was described by authorities as an approximately 45-year-old African-American male, around 5 feet 9 inches tall and 200 pounds. Matthews said he was wearing a unique outfit.

“He was wearing a purple shirt, white hat, white pants, black shoes and sunglasses,” the sheriff said.

Matthews said if someone in the store saw the robbery or if someone recognizes that combination of clothing, a reward has been offered by Crimestoppers at 1-800-CRIME-SC.

Meth lab bust

Matthews also announced that two men were arrested a week ago after KCSO narcotics agents received tips and citizens complaints about a possible meth lab on Kershaw Highway.

According to a KCSO report, the tips said the lab was in an unnumbered single-wide mobile home next to the old DeKalb School, located between Camden and Westville. Agents set up surveillance around 5 p.m. July 12 and watched as a white Ford Taurus left with the alleged manufacturer, 54-year-old Charles Ray, in the passenger seat. Matthews said the driver was a woman who was not arrested.

Agents said the car turned south on to Kershaw Highway without signaling and increased speed to 70 mph in a 55 mph zone. Agents conducted a traffic stop nearly six miles away near Colonial Lake Drive and said they could see Ray hiding something between his legs. They then reported seeing Ray do something unexpected with what turned out to be meth.

“He tried to eat the drugs and got into a fight with deputies,” Matthew said. “I understand it was a pretty fierce fight.”

So fierce, in fact, that Matthews said Ray ended up at KershawHealth to be treated for a shoulder injury.

Ray reportedly spit out the bag of meth during the fight. After calming down, he reportedly admitted a small black box with crack cocaine on the car’s floorboard belonged to him. Ray also admitted his roommate was back at the house.

The report said two agents and two deputies “rushed to the home to secure it to prevent destruction of drug evidence and a possible meth lab which would lead to public exposure and unlawful disposal of toxic waste and hazardous chemicals produced by meth labs.”

There, agents and deputies met Daniel Leroy Wells, also 54, at the door while he was talking on a phone. They described him as “non-compliant and combative.” Agents said they were able to enter and secure the home and detain Wells but that he “became threatening and disruptive, having up and down mood swings within seconds.”

Agents conducted a sweep of the home, observing numerous items connected to the drug trade. They then exited and evacuated the residence and contacted the S.C. Law Enforcement Division and local emergency crews.

“SLED sent agents trained and equipped to help with meth labs,” Matthews said.

The KCSO report indicated a more extensive search warrant was obtained and executed so that a three-man hazardous materials team could remove drug-related items. In all, 47 pieces of evidence were removed including items inside of a storage trunk. The full list of items included items like a scale, masks, various pills, straws, syringes and needles, razor blades, propane fuel containers and marijuana seeds Ray and Wells were apparently trying to grow. Many of the items had white powder either on or in them, the report said.

“The cleanup cost will be $2,500, which the county will have to pay for, but we expect to be reimbursed from a state fund, probably in September,” Matthews said. “Unfortunately in South Carolina, law enforcement is responsible for paying for the cleanup, not the person who made the mess in the first place.”

Matthews said agents charged Wells with possession and manufacture of methamphetamine. He said Wells’ previous criminal history includes larcenies, burglaries, marijuana possession, forgery, criminal conspiracy, public disorderly conduct and alcohol and driving violations. Matthews also said Wells once had his parole revoked.

The sheriff said agents charged Ray with possession and manufacture of methamphetamine, as well as possession of crack cocaine (second offense) and resisting arrest. He said Ray’s previous criminal history includes forgery, probation violation, public disorderly conduct, driving violations and assault.

“He also has a prior conviction of possession of meth or cocaine base in 2006,” Matthews said.

Kershaw County Detention Center (KCDC) records show Ray was in custody at the jail as of Tuesday afternoon. Matthews said he is being held on $75,000 bond.

The KCSO report indicated KershawHealth officials informed agents Ray tested positive for amphetamines, cocaine and THC (the drug in marijuana). Agents who struggled with Ray were also told he has hepatitis, according to the report.

KCDC records show Wells in jail as well; Matthews said he is being held on a $60,000 bond.

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