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Police looking for two involved in burglaries, robberies at Catawba College dorm

Suspects sought

Elias Francis

Elias Francis

Justin Sterling

Justin Sterling

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By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Police are searching for two people wanted for two burglaries and armed robberies at Catawba College’s Stanback Hall early last week.

The Salisbury Police Department said in a statement that officers are looking for Justin Traig Sterling, 21, of 3315 E. N.C. 218, Monroe, and Elias Phillip Francis, 19, of 6831 Pine Lake Lane, Mint Hill.

Police have obtained warrants for the pair after they say on Feb. 14 a dorm room was entered and clothing, electronics and jewelry were stolen. The next day, another dorm room was ransacked. The suspects went into an adjoining room and pointed a gun at the victim and demanded his and his roommate’s property. Police said the two suspects then left the building.

“We are grateful to our colleagues at the Salisbury Police Department for their vigilant pursuit of these suspects. Our entire community (campus and local) will be safer with their apprehension. SPD has worked diligently with our Public Safety Office to arrive at this point in their investigation, thanks in part to surveillance videos we were able to share,” said college spokeswoman Tonia Black-Gold.
Black-Gold said the college’s director of public safety sent an email message to the campus community late Tuesday morning following an “all clear” issued after an off-campus, non-college-related incident. The email alert included a reminder to students to continue to be vigilant on and near the campus.
“Please remember to lock room doors, lock car doors, not to prop doors open, not to loan out ID cards, secure all personal belongings, and not to leave valuables in your vehicles, especially in plain sight. We also ask that you travel in small groups and or call the Office of Public Safety for escorts if needed,” the alert said.
The alert was issued after an off-campus incident that did not involve Catawba College or any of its students. The incident originated at Colonial Park Apartments, located behind the Brian Center Nursing Home off Statesville Boulevard.
Campus officials met with Salisbury police Tuesday morning before issuing an “all clear” for the campus.
“All of these recent incidents underscore our collective need for vigilance,” Black-Gold said.

Catawba will be supplementing its public safety presence on campus using Salisbury police officers and Rowan County sheriff’s deputies in its daily shifts until the end of this semester.

“This will assure we have sworn law enforcement presence on campus in the event of future incidents,” she said.

Both Sterling and Francis have outstanding warrants for one count of robbery with a dangerous weapon, two counts of felony breaking and entering, and one count of felony larceny.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Sterling and Francis is asked to contact Salisbury police at 704-638-5333 or CrimeStoppers at 866-639-5245. Tips may be submitted online at http://tips.salisburyrowancrimestoppers.org/.

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