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10 years ago: A jewelry heist scare

PAULETTE BALLARD
Guest columnist

As told by Carol Self: Owners of Estate Jewelers in Lincolnton, Carol and David Self are always aware of the importance of safety and security.  Carol tells me that David has seen to it that they have the highest level of security available. The following story is one Carol and David experienced at an out-of-state antique show. As frightening as it was, Carol feels a higher being was watching over them during this attempted robbery.
Carol says numerous vendors were displaying their wares at an antique show in Florence, S.C. approximately 10 years ago. “A vendor from Shelby who frequently came to our store and whom we bought merchandise from, came by our booth and commented he had been robbed by a band of Colombian jewel thieves recently,” she said.
The vendor said he parked his car directly in front of a jewelry store, locked it and entered the store. As soon as he entered the store the robbers sprang into action. He said he had only been inside the store two to three minutes. Upon returning to his car he saw the thieves had broken into his car and were rapidly unloading his cases of jewelry. When they saw him they said something to him in Spanish and aimed a gun at him.
An example of how thieves begin their mission is to puncture car tires with a nail, thus creating the need for the driver to pull off the road to repair the tire. At this time several cars would converge on the disabled car, rob them and be quickly on their way.
“At the end of the show on Sunday, we had packed our merchandise and we prepared to drive home to Lincolnton,” Carol said. “Normally David’s son, Dave, didn’t attend the shows with us, but he was off work and insisted on going with us to the show. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We had only traveled a short distance when a small green car tried to get between our two vehicles. David said, ‘There they are.’  I had no idea who he was talking about and said, ‘There is who?’ David said, ‘Several foreign looking men came into the show, walked slowly down the aisles then left.’  He and the show’s promoter had both noticed them and were suspicious of their behavior. Now these men were following us. Going through my mind was what the vendor from Shelby had told me and I was truly terrified.
“David realized we needed gas, saw a gas station and quickly whipped into it. The driver of the green car had not expected us to turn so quickly and he stopped, then drove on. The green car turned around and rode slowly by us observing what we were doing. Dave walked over to our car and noticed one of the tires had been punctured with a nail and was low on air. Remembering the conversation with the vendor who was robbed, my mind was spinning and my heart was beating wildly. I kept saying, ‘We have to call the authorities!’
“Dave told his father to pull the car over under the lighting after he was through pumping gas and he would change the tire. The green car kept driving back and forth watching us. Thankfully there were too many people around us and the area was well lit, so we felt safe for the moment.  We then decided it was in our best interest to go back to the antique show building and report the situation to the authorities and the show promoter. We had obtained the green car’s tag number and gave it to deputies, but it turned out to be a rental car.
“From that day forward we changed everything we do and vary our habits frequently. We had always varied our habits for security reasons, but after this experience we made even more changes. We always travel with another vehicle and we check our tires before we get into the car to go anywhere.”
I asked Carol if they had ever had another attempted robbery and she mentioned while they were displaying their merchandise at the Metrolina Fairground in Charlotte, someone punctured one of their tires. She said they have to always be alert to the possibility that what some might consider a coincidence, may in fact be deliberate to create conditions for them to be robbed.
Carol told me she firmly believes someone was watching over them that day or this experience could have turned out differently. This was the most frightening moment she has ever had.

Paulette collects interesting, funny and unusual stories from people in and around Lincolnton. If you have a story you would like to submit for her column, e-mail it to pballardnc1029@yahoo.com. In the subject line type “For your column.” Include your name and phone number for her to contact you.

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