Despite rash of crime at business, Hammer Truck Sales owners staying positive

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Shavonne Potts
Nat Hammer and Eddie Suggs, co-owners of Hammer Truck Sales, would just like a little good luck.
A Jacksonville teenager was charged this weekend with breaking into the business and setting fire to an upstairs office. The same teen is suspected of breaking into the business a month ago, authorities say.
Thieves stole catalytic converters in August from the business, located at 310 Truck Ave., off Interstate 85. The suspects were arrested shortly after the converter theft.
Though their dealership has been hit three times in about seven months, the business partners have something to be thankful for: the law enforcement and firefighters who responded to the Friday-morning break-in and fire.
Rowan County Sheriff’s investigators say Lavon Jerome Hollingsworth, 17, broke into the business Friday and set the fire.
They say Hollingsworth stole a vehicle from Greensboro, parked it at a nearby mobile home park and walked a short distance through the woods to the rear of the business.
Suggs said the teen used a truck parked at the business as a ladder. He drove the truck just under the second floor window, stacked a metal toolbox and a truck tire and climbed on top.
Investigators said they later found property stolen from the business inside the stolen car, including two handguns, two laptops and a canvas bag containing optical equipment.
They say it appears Hollingsworth took the items to the car and at some point set fire to a conference room and office. On his way back to the car, the alarm system activated and the suspect took off on foot as law enforcement officers chased him.
He ran across the interstate toward the Kohl’s department store parking lot and through a creek behind the store, where he was caught.
The office and conference room damaged by fire are on the second floor of a garage built about three years ago, Hammer said.
The owners upgraded their alarm system after the first burglary in February, when authorities say Hollingsworth busted a glass door on the first floor.
A surveillance camera caught the suspect going in and out of the building. During that break-in, the suspect stole five firearms, a small safe and a camera.
It is unclear why the suspect set fire to the business. Damage from the fire was contained to the conference room and Suggs’ office and bathroom.
Suggs said he had been storing some items in his office while his family prepared to move into their new home.
He plays the guitar and owns several. He’s not sure how many he had in his office, possibly a half dozen or more. Many were autographed by famous guitarists, including Andy Summers of The Police. He may be able to salvage a few, he said, but won’t know for sure until he can get back into his office.
Suggs said in two weeks, all of those items would’ve been gone and moved to his new house.
He also had housed in the office some recording studio equipment that needed to be stored at a constant temperature.
“I would love to have my personal items back,” he said.
Hammer and Suggs said they are thankful for the work of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Salisbury Police Department and all of the fire departments that responded.
“Thank goodness police caught him,” Hammer said.
They also credit a resident at the mobile home park who spotted the teen in the woods and called authorities.
“It’s so fortunate that the people over there called because the fire would have had 15 more minutes to get going,” Hammer said.
The two estimate the damage to be $75,000 or more. They are awaiting official word from insurance investigators.
The truck company has been in business for 10 years, and has been at the current location for six years.