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Store owner smacks robber with pecan cracker

Seventy-six-year-old Rosie Brower whacked a would-be robber in the hand with a wooden nut cracker and drew enough blood for a DNA match to the man captured just down the road a few minutes later.

Brower had already decided to close the convenience store she’d run for 32 years, but the attempted robbery Friday convinced her to quit a week earlier than planned.

“I closed it Friday,” after the robbery attempt, she said. “It was just a little bit too much.” She said she’s concerned about the safety of her 13-year-old grandson, Trey Morrison, who was with her during the robbery attempt but was unhurt.

Police from three agencies scrambled to Brower’s store, at the northwest corner of Halcyondale Road and Highway 17, near Oliver, at 11:30 a.m. Friday. Within 12 minutes of getting the 911 call, they had Harold Leon McDonald, of Davis Street, in custody.

McDonald, 20, was charged with criminal attempt: robbery by force of a person older than 65; aggravated assault of a person 65 or older; aggravated assault; two counts of kidnapping; cruelty to children; and wearing a mask.

Brower said the store was open and she was doing laundry in a back room when the man entered and went behind the counter. She said there was nothing unusual about customers helping themselves if she wasn’t at the front counter.

What was unusual is that the man had his face covered with a shirt. When he began banging on the cash register, Brower saw him and realized it was a robbery.

“He grabbed me and pushed me down,” she said. She suffered bruises from the fall. “We stumbled over. I fell down. He kind of jumped over me.”

She grabbed the nearest thing she could – a heavy wooden nutcracker – and whacked him on the hand, causing him to bleed a little on the counter.

He left without taking anything.

A passerby who realized what was happening called for help and officers from the Screven County sheriff’s department and Oliver, Rocky Ford and Sylvania police departments responded. Chief Pat Kile of the Oliver Police Department and Sgt. Ken Kelley with the Rocky Ford Police Department found McDonald walking down a county road about one-fourth of a mile from the store and arrested him.

“Mrs. Brower’s defense of herself and her grandson aided in the investigation because she was able to draw blood,” Cpl. Brett Dickerson of the sheriff’s department said. A police dog also tracked McDonald from the store to the place where he was arrested.

Investigators also matched shoe prints from the store to shoes McDonald was wearing, Dickerson said.

Brower said when she saw McDonald with his face uncovered, she recognized him as a customer who had been in the store many times.

Brower said the store that opened in 1977 had been broken into at night many times over the years. The original building also was burned. The current building was constructed in 1985.

She had been there for one other attempted robbery a few years ago. That person also left without taking anything. “I stared him down,” she said. “He said, ‘I have a gun. I’ll shoot.’ I said, ‘Well, shoot.’” He left the store instead.

The Browers quit selling gasoline at the store in 1994, when the EPA said they would have to re-do the underground tanks and that would have cost more than it was worth, she said.

The store was a valuable resource for people who appreciated being able to buy staples without having to drive to Newington or Cooperville, said longtime customer Geraldine Pierce.

“She’s the very best person in the neighborhood that I know of,” she said of Brower. “We’ll miss her so much.”

Brower said she’s closing the store because of her health and so she can help take care of her grandson.