Rockwell robber leads police to arsenal stash

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
ROCKWELL ó Catching a man crawling out a drug store window with a pillowcase full of drugs turned out to be the start of a bizarre case for Rockwell police.
Before it was over, officers seized automatic weapons and the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office bomb disposal unit was called in to disarm and dispose of explosives.
Police spent all day Sunday dealing with a case that had unusual twists and turns.
Despite the planning and hard work ó chopping through a metal fire door ó the break-in at Crescent Pharmacy, 314 E. Main St., netted little in the way of sellable drugs.
Chief Hugh Bost Jr. said the criminals “didn’t know exactly what they were stealing.”
Once inside the pharmacy, they bypassed prescription drugs with a high street value such as oxycodone.
Instead, the pillowcase they carried out contained $3,700 worth of antibiotics, ibuprofen, Viagra and some controlled substances such as diazepam.
Officer J.S. Washam responded to an alarm at 5:26 a.m. Sunday at the pharmacy.
He noticed the electrical meter had been pulled loose.
As he was checking the pharmacy, which is part of vacant a medical center complex, Washam caught Christopher Richard Leonard, 22, of 1375 Gin Road, crawling out the window with the pillowcase, according to a police report.
With other law enforcement officers coming from the Rowan Sheriff’s Office and Granite Quarry, Washam secured Leonard, who said there were other people in the building.
No one was found in the building, but deputies spotted a vehicle across the railroad tracks on Liberty Street.
Bost said deputies recognized the driver and knew where he lived.
The vehicle immediately left the scene.
Officers then went to 1375 Gin Road and took Bruce Shipton, 53, and Cassie Jo Martin, 24, into custody. Martin is identified as Shipton’s daughter. Leonard, Shipton and Martin live at the same address.
Deputies executed a search warrant since Gin Road is outside the town limits.
While searching for muddy clothes at the home, officers uncovered a broken ax they say was apparently used in cutting through the pharmacy fire door.
Bost said when they started finding automatic weapons and explosives, Rockwell turned the scene over to the Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies then called in the Cabarrus bomb disposal squad to deal with grenades and explosives.
Bost said the guns were World War II-era, German-made weapons.
It was unclear how or why the threesome had the grenades or explosives, police said. All were disposed of late Sunday afternoon.
Reflecting on the pharmacy break-in and ensuing events, Bost said, “none of them are rocket scientists. There’s a lot of poetic justice to get caught crawling out the window.”
Shipton is in the Rowan County Detention Center under $35,000 bond. He is charged with breaking and entering, possession of burglary tools, possession with intent to sell and distribute a controlled substance and possession of weapons of mass destruction.
Leonard and Martin are charged with breaking and entering, possession of burglary tools and possession with intent to sell or deliver a controlled substance.