Weapon thwarts would-be burglars

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

PLANTERSVILLE – After being a target for burglars for years, 75-year-old James Evans fired back.
On the night of Jan. 18, a relative called Evans to let him know that someone was once again breaking into his store, Evans’ Grocery in the Palmetto community.
When he entered the store, Evans said, he saw two men inside. When they saw him, they ran.
The men escaped, but not before Evans shot their vehicle several times, hitting both front tires.
“I’ve been in this business for 25 years and I’m tired of people breaking in to my store, so when my niece called me and said someone was in there I went to see for myself,” said Evans, who lives behind the store. “When I saw them I wasn’t scared – just angry. When they tried to leave I shot the tires out.”
An abandoned vehicle with several bullet holes in it was found in Verona shortly after the incident.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said evidence in the vehicle helped investigators identify at least one suspect, but it was a traffic stop in Plantersville nearly three weeks later that brought the first arrest.
Plantersville Police Sgt. Jay Hargett stopped the driver of an SUV on Feb. 7 for running a stop sign. But when preparing to ticket the driver, Hargett found in the car drugs, stolen guns, liquor, cash and a chain saw that had been reported stolen.
The driver of the vehicle, Antonio M. Smith of Shannon, was charged with possession of narcotics. Because the vehicle he was driving was reported stolen, he also was charged with auto theft.
Smith was taken to the Lee County jail to await a bond hearing when police discovered Smith was wanted in connection with a burglary at Evans’ Grocery. His bond was set at $200,000 Wednesday.
Even though Johnson wants people to help police fight crime, he said he wouldn’t recommend that they handle it the way Evans did.
“Anytime you take this kind of action you are running a risk,” said Johnson about Evans shooting at the suspects. “But people have a right to protect their property, so these potential burglars better beware.”
Deputies are looking for at least one more suspect in the case.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or danza.johnson@journalinc.com.