BY THE COLUMBUS PACKET
An Alabama native looking to get high allegedly robbed the Rite Aid pharmacy on Highway 45 North Wednesday morning. But his escape was cut short after he failed to tell the getaway driver, his mother, of his master plan.Officers with the Columbus Police Department said Joshua Neal Jeffcoat, 29, of Huntsville, Ala., approached the pharmacy counter of the Rite Aid Pharmacy at 1800 Hwy 45 N. in Columbus at 11 a.m. and demanded they hand over Xanax and Klonopin(Both drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety and are controlled substances). Jeffcoat, who reportedly was cloaked in a black skull embossed sweatshirt and festive Virgin Islands ball cap, handed over a sticky note to the clerk that read:
“I have a gun, I want drugs, you have thirty seconds, no alarm or it will be a blood bath, step away from the counter and don’t let your co-worker know”.
The staff reportedly handed the desperado several bottles of pills after Jeffcoat made a motion that he had a gun in his sweatshirt. After the bandit had his loot, the workers quickly called E-911 and reported the crime just as he exited the store. Emergency dispatchers notified CPD and Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office of the robbery and more than 20 patrol units swarmed the area.
The first law enforcement agent on scene was CPD Officer Brian Jenkins, who was on routine patrol less than one half of a block away. Jenkins radioed that he was on scene with seconds of the initial dispatch. As more information came into E-911, officers were told to look out for a white SUV or Minivan that was missing a licence plate with a white male with a beard and dark hair inside.
Columbus Police Lt. Oscar Lewis saw a vehicle matching the description headed north on Highway 45 with a white female driver and a white male passenger in the back seat. Lewis, assisted by CPD Cpl. Terrie Songer, forced the white Chrysler Town and Country LX into the K-Mart parking lot. Law enforcement officials from the CPD, LCSO and Lowndes County Narcotics Unit raced into the parking lot and surrounded the vehicle. The driver of the vehicle, later identified as Sherry Jeffcoat, mother of the outlaw, exited the van and nervously obeyed officers command as she fell to her knees as they waived guns and instructions her way.
“I was just trying to get a prescription,” she yelled as officers held her to the ground.
Joshua Jeffcoat remained in the back seat of the minivan for nearly a full minute, causing the tension level on scene to escalate dramatically. After crawling over to the front driver’s seat from the rear of the family vehicle, Jeffcoat exited the vehicle with his hands raised high and went to the ground as officers quickly surrounded him. The alleged hooligan was brought to his feet and escorted away from the minivan as his mother was placed into a waiting cruiser. Jeffcoat yelled to his mother several times, “I’m sorry mom!! I love you mom!” as she sat bewildered in the back seat of the police cruiser.
Joshua Jeffcoat was patted down on scene and transported to Rite Aid by CPD to be identified by witnesses. While on scene at Rite Aid, Jeffcoat began shaking uncontrollably and an ambulance was called to the scene to check him out. Jeffcoat told paramedics that he was suffering from withdrawals and was a regular user of methadone (traditionally used to teat opioid addiction). After a brief treatment, Jeffcoat was transported back into police custody and charged with Armed Robbery.
CPD investigators Raymond Hackler and Tommy Watkins gathered numerous bags of evidence from the car, including several pill bottles, two Walmart bags, one Rite Aid bag and what appeared to be a Sony Playstation 2 remote game controller. It is believed that Jeffcoat used the game controller to mimic an actual gun during the robbery.
Sherry Jeffcoat was interviewed by CPD investigators for several hours before being released after it became apparent she had no knowledge of her son’s dastardly plans. Joshua Jeffcoat reportedly has a criminal record in both Clay County and in Alabama and reportedly had spent time in prison in Alabama for drug related offenses. A witness to the robbery, who declined to be identified, told The Packet late Wednesday that Jeffcoat appeared to be suffering from either drug addiction or mental instability. The CPD would not comment as to his mental qualifications as of press time Wednesday night.
Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen praised all the law enforcement officers involved and lauded the members of his department who responded to the scene so quickly.
“Two seconds! We were on scene in about two seconds,” McQueen exclaimed. “We have to credit this arrest to the new policies we have been following in the department, including the use of cutting edge technology in our patrol cars. This was the result of extensive training and I can’t say enough about the cooperation between agencies today- I have never been more proud than I am today.”
McQueen also reiterated a warning he issued to criminals several months ago,
“I have a message for all the criminal-types out there — you have three choices: Stop committing crime, move to another jurisdiction, or go directly to jail. Its your choice,” he said.