One held in apparent robbery attempt

Published 8:05 pm Friday, February 1, 2013

The adrenaline flaring inside like a frayed electrical wire, the tension of the moment stretching his nerves unbelievably tight, Blake Bourn misdialed 911 three times.

As his fingers fumbled but finally found the correct digits, the retort of what may have been as many as six shotgun blasts was already fading into the trees around Zetus Automotive.

With law enforcement on the way, Bourn, 30, and Phillip “Duke” Montgomery, 47, faced a long few minutes of silence to absorb what they had just experienced.

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Faced by what proved to be a pair of would-be robbers, one of them wielding a pistol, Montgomery, after a few scrambled moments of confusion, retrieved a pump-action 12-guage shotgun from his shop office on Zetus Road and fired several times at the fleeing men.

Friday morning, local law enforcement had one suspect in custody, arrested about 7:30 a.m. at the 3000 block of Highway 550, said Sheriff Steve Rushing.

Law enforcement continued to interrogate the suspect Friday morning and had not yet booked him into Lincoln County Jail or identified the man.

“I believe this is the one we pretty much chased all night,” Rushing said Friday morning.

The investigation continues, however.

“We are looking into a second subject,” said the sheriff.

Friday afternoon, authorities recovered a green Expedition wrecked in a ditch on Jackson Liberty Road and believed to have been used by the suspects.

The apparent robbery attempt occurred about 1:15 p.m. after Montgomery and Bourn had returned from lunch, said the men.

“I’d just got my shop doors open,” Montgomery said.

The men got to work on a vehicle but didn’t get very far in the needed repairs.

“I happened to step outside the right bay door and looked up, and he was standing there with a gun drawn on me, pointed right at my face,” Montgomery said.

Montgomery initially thought he was faced with a prank, but the look in the man’s eyes soon proved that thought wrong. Montgomery and Bourn, the only two people at the shop that day, took cover. Then, Montgomery took action.

“I reached and grabbed that big engine hoist and threw it down and hollered real loud three times,” he said, pointing at the scattered equipment inside his small, two-bay shop.

At the sound, the man with the pistol turned and ran, said Montgomery.

Retrieving his shotgun, Montgomery gave chase and saw a second man had joined the first, both running into the woods behind the automotive shop Montgomery has owned and operated for 16 years.

Wearing a red hoodie sweater and a homemade ski mask, two clothing items authorities reportedly later recovered in the woods, the armed man apparently never said a word through the incident.

Recollecting the moment through a continual volley of calls to both his personal cell phone and office phones, Montgomery realized things quickly could have turned tragic.

“He had me if he wanted me,” Montgomery said, speaking of the moments before he was able to get access to his weapon.

However, the Lincoln County native described his primary emotions, and it wasn’t fear.

“I’m actually fine,” he said. “I was more mad than I was anything.”

Bourn’s emotional state was a little more tense as he paced around the shop, speaking to friends, customers and family that had gathered.

“I haven’t ever been that scared,” he said. “I just felt so helpless.”

Bourn later discovered the keys and a jump box from his truck were missing. He assumes those items were stolen during the lunch hour he and Montgomery took.

Though Montgomery has a long-ago felony conviction, Rushing said the automotive shop owner broke no laws by possessing the firearm he used Wednesday, contrary to some accounts of the incident.

“He had his full rights restored,” Rushing said.

Following the report of Thursday’s foiled robbery, law enforcement, including the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Mississippi Highway Patrol, began heavy searching of the Zetus Road and Jackson Liberty Road area, culminating in the one arrest made so far.