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Foot chase by Waynesville police thwarts pharmacy break-in

law enforcementA foot chase by a Waynesville Police officer through downtown Hazelwood just before dawn last week ended with police nabbing suspects wanted for botched break-ins at two local pharmacies and under investigation for a string of larcenies in other towns, as well.

Police officer Michael Whitley was on patrol just before 5 a.m. last Sunday when the burglar alarm went off at Kim’s Pharmacy off Russ Avenue. Video surveillance had captured two suspects taking a circular saw to the back door and a tire iron to the front door before fleeing empty-handed when the alarm went off, ditching their break-in tools when they ran. 

After processing the crime scene at Kim’s Pharmacy, Officer Whitley decided to cruise past another local pharmacy nearby to make sure it hadn’t been hit as well. Lo and behold, after setting off the alarm at Kim’s Pharmacy, the two suspects had headed straight across town to Waynesville Pharmacy.

They were still actively trying to break-in through the back door when Officer Whitley rolled up. He called for back-up and watched them working on the door with tools for a few moments before they looked up and noticed his police car.

They took off running through downtown Hazelwood. Officer Whitley jumped out and ran after them shouting “Stop! Police!” the whole time as they crossed Hazelwood Avenue and darted down an alley behind a row of shops. Whitley stayed on their heels and they soon quit running and turned toward him. He ordered them to the ground, and they were then handcuffed with the help of Officer Joey Fox, who had responded to Whitley’s call for back-up.

“The Waynesville police did a great job. It was great police work,” said Kevin Bowen, who’s wife Kim owns Waynesville Pharmacy. “My hat’s off to them for doubling down on the suspects. It worked out for the best.”

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Video surveillance at Waynesville Pharmacy captured the suspects tenaciously trying to break in through the back door for more than 30 minutes, despite being on a main street, cars occasionally going by and dawn starting to break.

Thieves who break-in to pharmacies are usually after the opiate-based pain medications, Bowen said, either to feed their own addiction or for the street drug value. One of the suspects had a needle in their pocket when captured. While they were waiting to be booked at jail, officers overheard one say to the other “maybe this was a blessing so they could get off the drugs,” according to police reports.

The two suspects — William Daniel Larch, 23, and Chelsie Noelle Hill, 22 — were charged with two counts of attempted breaking and entering and criminal property damage, plus possession of burglary tools. Based on various stolen goods found in the suspects’ vehicle — including stolen tools, clothes and wallets — they are under active investigation for other larcenies in Clyde, Sylva, Cherokee and on the campus of Western Carolina University.

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