Suspects sought in Perdue truck heist

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 20, 2008

LEWISTON-WOODVILLE – Roosevelt Tann Jr. lost his load of Perdue Farms processed chicken, but saved his life.

Local law enforcement agencies have launched an intensive investigation into a kidnapping, assault and vehicle heist here last week that left Tann battered and bruised, but alive.

Lewiston-Woodville Police Chief J. Winston Panton reported that Tann was treated for head, facial and arm injuries after as many as 10 assailants beat the truck driver after hijacking his loaded Perdue Farms 18-wheeler.

All that is known about the assailants is they are all black males between the ages of 18-29.

According to Chief Panton, Tann stopped at the Duck-Thru convenience store in Lewiston-Woodville around 10 p.m. last Tuesday (May 13) to purchase a soft drink and snacks for his delivery trip.

“As Mr. Tann was inside the store, the store’s outside video, which we viewed later, showed an SUV twice circling the diesel pump area where Mr. Tann’s truck was parked,” Panton said. The video showed two individuals exit the SUV and enter the cab area of Mr. Tann’s truck. Meanwhile, the video inside the store showed Mr. Tann purchasing his items and chatting with the cashier, unaware of what was happening outside.”

After leaving the store and entering his truck, Panton said Tann reported something appeared amiss inside the cab…the passenger’s side door was not secured.

“Mr. Tann scooted over to check that door at which time three men hidden in the back portion of the cab grabbed him from behind and began to beat him,” Panton said. “As Mr. Tann attempted to escape, the men pulled him back inside the cab and continued to beat him.”

The store video showed the truck leaving the parking lot, eventually making its way to NC 11 South. A short distance later, Tann attempted another escape as he exited the truck through the passenger’s side window. He fell to the ground, hurting his neck and head in the process.

Panton reported that the truck stopped at which time the men came to where Tann was (now laying in a ditch) and began assaulting him again.

“About this time, a vehicle, also traveling south on NC 11, pulled near the truck,” Panton said. “Mr. Tann reportedly yelled at the occupants of that vehicle, ‘they’re beating me up; help me, help me’.”

However, what Tann thought were good Samaritans turned out to be even more assailants as the vehicle was apparently the same SUV seen earlier in the convenience store parking lot.

Panton said six men exited the SUV and joined in on the assault. At some point, Tann was drug to and placed inside the SUV.

“It was after they were back on the road (the SUV and the Perdue truck, apparently with one of the assailants behind the wheel) that Mr. Tann overheard a portion of a cell phone conversation between the driver of the SUV and an unknown party,” Panton reported. “Some of that conversation dealt with what to do with a truck load of processed chicken.”

Panton said he was under the impression that the assailants were apparently going to sell the chicken to another person or persons.

“But what Mr. Tann was hauling that night was not what they wanted,” Panton noted. “Apparently, they were in the market for wings, legs and breasts, processed, refrigerated and packaged for sale. What Mr. Tann was hauling that night was cured chicken meat which is used in making hot dogs.”

Panton went on to say that Tann told his assailants that fact, but they didn’t believe him. He added that Tann was told once the chicken was delivered to the buyer, he would be shot.

“Apparently, they didn’t want any witnesses,” Panton said.

The truck and SUV eventually wound-up in Rocky Mount. There, the SUV was low on fuel and a stop was made for gas at which time four of the suspects inside the SUV went inside the store to make other purchases.

“Mr. Tann used this opportunity to make his get-away,” Panton said. “He exited the SUV and ran towards the store, but the door was locked. He yelled at the cashier inside the store that he had been kidnapped and beaten, a scene we later viewed on the surveillance tape at that store.”

The cashier called 9-1-1 for emergency assistance.

“The (Rocky Mount) police and rescue squad arrived, but the suspects were long gone by that time, apparently spooked when the cashier called 9-1-1,” Panton noted.

Tann was transported to Nash General Hospital where he was treated for his injuries. Meanwhile, the stolen Perdue truck, with its load of cured chicken meat still intact, was found abandoned a few miles from the Rocky Mount convenience store.

Panton said he and the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office are working the case. Anyone with information is urged to contact either Panton at 348-2499 or the Bertie Sheriff’s Office at 794-5330.

“We don’t need you name, just your information,” Panton closed.