LEWISVILLE, N.C. -- Deputies are searching for two men they say bound a store clerk and doused him in fuel before setting fire to the building with the victim still inside.
Shortly after 11 p.m. Saturday, Forsyth County deputies responded to a reported robbery at the Stop and Save located at 6641 Styers Ferry Road, Clemmons. The store is within the city limits of Lewisville.
The Lewisville Fire Department, Clemmons Fire Department, Vienna Fire Department and Forsyth County Fire Department were also dispatched to the building regarding a fire.
Investigators determined that two suspects entered the store around 9:40 p.m. and demanded money from the clerk while showing and threatening to use a handgun. They say the clerk was tied up and accelerant was poured throughout the store.
The store’s owner, who didn’t want to be identified, said his employee was bound with zip ties and tied to a chair. The suspects used diesel fuel, which they poured on the employee, as well as inside the store.
The owner added that the men were inside the store for about an hour, even pretending to be employees when would-be customers tried to enter.
“When the customers came in, the guy started fake mopping,” the owner said.
Deputies say, and documents show, that the suspects stole thousands of dollars’ worth of items.
“It could have been me,” the owner said, adding that the 55-year-old victim had just beaten cancer. “It was his first day back.”
The suspects then locked the victim inside, still bound by the zip ties, after setting the store on fire, according to the owner.
“[We don’t know] if they were just robbers or if they were trying to kill somebody,” he added.
Deputies say the suspects then stole the clerk’s vehicle. It was found burned and unoccupied just before midnight in Davie County.
The owner says the clerk was able to free himself from the zip ties, but was unable to escape. The store’s windows are protected by bars.
“If he was not able to get away from the zip ties, he would have died here,” the owner said.
The owner tells FOX8 the clerk was freed by firefighters after people outside noticed the smoke, heard him yelling and called 911.
“We are just scared. We don’t know [if] we are getting targeted,” he said.
Deputies have released a surveillance image of one of the suspects. He is described as a white male, approximately 25 – 35 years old, approximately 6’4”, with short black hair. He was wearing a tan/brown jacket, blue jeans, a black tee shirt and work boots at the time.
FIRST LOOK: Forsyth sheriffs office says this is one of the men wanted in the armed robbery/fire. 25-35 years old, approx 6’4”. Other suspect is approx 60, 5’6” - 5’8”, wearing white sailors hat. Suspect vehicle a newer model white F-350. pic.twitter.com/m9f79bgAmP
— Michael Hennessey (@mhennesseynews) October 23, 2018
The second suspects is described as a white male, approximately 60 years old, 5’6” to 5’8”, wearing black pants, a black tee shirt and a white sailor’s hat.
Deputies say the two were traveling in a newer model white Ford F-350 with dual rear wheels.
The victim was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. The store owner says the victim is OK physically, but understandably shaken.
Fire officials estimate the damage to the store to be $200,000.
Deputies say they are pursuing leads, but ask anyone with information related to the crimes to contact Crimestoppers at (336) 727-2800 for English or (336) 728-3904 for Spanish, or the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office at (336) 727- 2112.