Woman held at gunpoint in St. Ignatius
A gun was pointed at Sheryl Hitchcock’s face on Monday, Dec. 7, around 10 p.m. at the Closer to Home assisted living facility on Watson Road where residents ranging in ages from about 70 to 98 live.
Hitchcock, the facility owner, was sweeping the floor in the dining area when a man about 5 feet 6 inches tall with a slender build busted through the front door. She looked up slightly annoyed that someone would come through the door in such a rough manner.
She thought, for a second, that her husband, Jim Waldridge, was about to walk on the floor she was getting ready to mop, but she quickly realized that this man wasn’t her husband. He was wearing a bandana over his face and an orange hunting jacket.
“He pulled a gun out and threw a grocery bag at me,” she said, adding that he said that she knew what he wanted. “I said, ‘no I don’t know. You tell me.’”
The intruder told her to get the keys out and open the cabinet where the residents’ medications are stored. He wanted the prescription narcotics.
“We don’t have narcotics,” she said. “We are a narcotics free facility, but we did have them in the past.”
Hitchcock was angry that someone would break into her facility. She wanted to yell at him, but she kept calm.
“I thought if I stayed calm it would get him out faster,” she said.
One resident heard the exchange. She came out of her room and asked what was going on. He said to her, “Sit down sweetie. I don’t want to hurt you.” She sat down. He then told Hitchcock to dump all of the medication into the bag, and she did, but most of it was blood pressure medication.
“He got frustrated and started shaking,” she said adding that he didn’t take the bag when he left. He told her to open the door to the laundry room. He instructed her to lay on the floor with her face down and not to get up until he was gone.
“There was no yelling and no screaming,” she said. “He could have hit me on the head or something but he didn’t. It was quick and calm.”
Hitchcock called her husband who was sitting several yards away in another home and then, she called the police. Deputies from the Lake County Sheriff’s Department responded.
“They came out and got on the ground to check for footprints and they took the bag,” she said of the grocery bag that was filled with medications.
Hitchcock took a moment to think about what had happened.
“To hold up an old folk’s home, seriously?” she said. “You have to have a real drug problem if you do something like that.”
Lake County Sheriff Don Bell said his department is investigating the crime, and as of Monday, they hadn’t made any arrests. He said there is a drug problem in the county, but he hasn’t encountered an incident like this one involving prescription drugs and an assisted living home.
Sheriff Bell said he deals with many crimes involving prescription drugs. Sometimes it’s people trying to change their prescription to a greater number of pills. Some involve traffic stops.
“It is illegal to drive when you are impaired by prescription drugs even if they are taken legally,” he said.
Many people hooked on prescription drugs move on to other drugs.
“We see them switching to heroin because the high is similar,” he said. “That is why we are seeing more heroin (in the county).”
It’s important to keep prescription drugs in their labeled containers.
“The pills have to be in the bottle, even if they are your pills,” he said, explaining that the name on the bottle identifies the owner of the pills. “It is a felony to be in possession of drugs that are not yours.”
Prescription drugs can have different effects on people. He explained that some drugs calm people down while others make them angry and loud. He said people going through withdrawals from drugs can be unpredictable.
“Every situation is different,” he said. “There is no cookie-cutter approach to dealing with this.”