ANATOMY OF AN ARMED ROBBERY - 'I've never been afraid of the dark ... I am now'

DeWayne Bartels

Weeks after having a gun stuck in her face, Sally is dealing with the scars left behind from an armed robbery.

The scars are emotional ones caused by a mixture of fear and anxiety.

Sally spoke recently about the experience in the Peoria office where the armed robbery allegedly took place earlier this month. It was allegedly carried out at the hands of a 13-year-old black male suspect the police caught moments after the robbery.

Sally can now talk about the experience, but finds it hard to sit still. She spends a lot of time looking out any window she is near, ever watchful of people walking by and looking for cars stopping in front of the office.

“At home and behind your desk, you should feel safe. I don’t,” Sally said.

“I was home alone the other night and I had to have all the lights on. I’ve never been afraid of the dark before. I am now.”

Fear factor

“The day after it happened, the closer I got to the office, the more I wanted to turn around and go home. I forced myself to come in,” she said.

“I am much more aware of my surroundings now. I was at Menard’s recently with my husband. A black kid came in wearing a hoodie. I stopped breathing for a minute. My blinders are off.”

She said as a result of this experience, she is hyper-sensitive to any situation that seems even slightly suspicious.

She described being at an Aldi’s store in Peoria. As she walked out, Sally said she saw a young black male walk into the store and pull his hoodie hood up as he entered the store.

“I was struck by that. Why did he pull the hood up when he entered the store? I thought that to myself. I didn’t like the answer I got,” she said.

“The manager was outside smoking a cigarette. I told him what I saw and about my concern. He put out his cigarette and went back in the store.”

Anxiety filled

Sally said she does not like feeling suspicious of others, but it is a matter of survival.

“I used to be a trusting person until someone gave me a reason to not trust them,” she said. “No more. I don’t trust anyone now.”

Sally said it makes her angry to feel that way. But, that is only the tip of her anger.

Her anger, she said, is also being stoked by what she considers the inaction of the Peoria police detective investigating her case. 

“I was crying after it happened. My boss was comforting me and he called the police,” Sally said.

Peoria police patrol officers and Peoria County deputies were on the scene in less than two minutes, she said.

“They were great. They went right to work. They had a K-9 trying to track the suspect. And, they were very empathetic to my plight. Within minutes they called to say they had a suspect,” Sally said.

“I looked at him. I told them those were clothes he was wearing. I told them the bandanna they found under his hat was the one the robber wore. I identified the gun. I said, ‘That’s the gun.’”

She expected an arrest and armed robbery charges.

Instead, she found out the juvenile suspect has been released.

“It’s like what I went through was trivialized. I’m angry,” she said.

Her anxiety grew as the days went on.

The anxiety hit a peak days later when her boss talked to Peoria Police Lt. Vince Wieland. Her boss said he was told the police report said her comment was the gun “resembled” the gun that had been in her face.

Sally said she feels words have been put in her mouth on the police reports by the detective in charge of the case.

She said her blinders are off as far as the police go as well.

“I think he just doesn’t care,” she said. “Did what happened to me not matter? I wonder.”