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Wide-scale manhunt for pair who robbed quick stop continues

Law enforcement officers swarmed an swath of Lawrence Countynear Topeka on Wednesday in a search for two men suspected of anearly afternoon armed robbery at Valley Quick Stop on Highway27.

The men remained at large early today, according to LawrenceCounty Sheriff Joel Thames, but officers were following theirtrail, he said.

“They’ve had those subjects in sight twice this morning,” Thamessaid.

The search, however, has moved into Walthall and northern Pikecounties following the sightings.

Based on statements made at two homes on Robert Tynes Road, thesuspects are believed to be from Pike County. The men sought helpfrom residents of the homes before the manhunt began.

At least one of the men may still be armed with a handgun thatwas displayed during the robbery, Thames said.

One of the men was identified by law enforcement after threewitnesses picked him from mug shots. The suspect, a McCombresident, has a prior record for burglary.

“One of my deputies is swearing out an affidavit on one of thesuspects now,” Thames, who would not give the suspect’s name, saidearly today.

The robbery occurred around noon Wednesday at the Valley QuickStop, a popular small, rural convenience store near the WalthallCounty line.

The store’s owner said she was leaving as one of the men enteredthe store and noticed the family pet curled up near thecounter.

“He asked if the dog would bite before he robbed us,” shesaid.

She was in the parking lot during the robbery but saw the manemerge with an undisclosed amount of cash and run to a black cardriven by an accomplice. She jumped in her car to chase them. Themen raced up Highway 27 with the store owner in pursuit, turningleft on Bismarck Road, she said.

The store owner said she slowed from speeds of around 100 mphwhen she saw the suspect’s car cross Highway 44 airborne.

“He jumped Highway 44 like the Dukes of Hazzard,” she said,referring to the 1970s television show known for its carchases.

When she slowed down, the store owner lost sight of the suspectsand began to realize just how dangerous her behavior had been, shesaid.

“Reality hits you later about what’s really happened,” shesaid.

The suspects’ car never made it off Bismarck Road. Approximatelytwo miles later, they lost control of the car in a sharp curve andwent into the trees. Around 1:30 p.m. the suspects were seen againat the home of Thad Tynes on Robert Tynes Road, about a half-mileacross the woods from the crash site.

“They came to my house wanting to use the telephone,” Tynessaid. “They had mud on them, and they were wet. I gotsuspicious.”

The men claimed they had been assaulted and were being chased,Tynes said. He said they wanted to use the telephone to call somefriends of theirs in McComb pick them up.

Tynes, an off-duty Lawrence County deputy, said he first wentinto his room and got his handgun, then he called 911.

While he was being informed of the robbery, the suspects crossedthe road and went to the home of Andy Grant.

“They asked me for a ride to McComb,” Grant said.

He told the men he was getting ready for work and didn’t havethe time, Grant said. As they turned away, Grant noticed one of themen had blood on his shirt and his hand was bleeding.

“They weren’t hurt bad,” Tynes said. “They just had some cutsand scratches.”

Tynes watched the men leave Grant’s house and head east onRobert Tynes Road as he walked out of his house.

“They had to have gone back into the woods right there,” Tynessaid, pointing next to the road about halfway down the hill.

The men were later sighted again north of that spot on PineRidge Road.

Officers were quickly assigned to key locations along RobertTynes, Holmesville and Pine Ridge roads, as well as Highway 27,about 1.5 miles east of the last sighting.

Thames led a multi-agency task force in the manhunt. The taskforce included officers from the Lawrence County Sheriff’sDepartment, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Mississippi Bureau ofInvestigation, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks,bloodhounds, a helicopter and volunteer firefighters.

Bloodhounds from Lincoln County and the Washington ParishCorrectional Institute and an infrared-equipped helicopter from theArmy National Guard assisted in the search as darkness closed inWednesday.

The search continued throughout the night.

The search area shifted around 8 a.m. today, when the men wereseen at Brister’s Store, just across the Lawrence County line inWalthall County.

“They were seen getting into the back of a pickup at Brister’sStore,” Thames said.

The truck was heading in the direction of Pricedale, Thamessaid. It was stopped by county deputies not long afterward, but thedriver, who was unaware of the search, had dropped the suspects offat a construction site.

As officers converged on the construction site, Thames said,they received a report that a pickup had been stolen in that areashortly after 8 a.m.

“That’s where we are this morning,” Thames said. “All ofWalthall, Pike and Lincoln county are assisting us in this search,and the MHP has a roadblock on Highway 44 near the Friendshipcommunity.”

A description of the stolen vehicle has been placed on astatewide reporting system used by law enforcement agencies.