WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Police are still searching for a man who robbed a taxi driver at gunpoint Monday afternoon and the owner of the taxi company, Wilmington, NC Taxi, believes the attack was premeditated.
Nick Hiteshew, the owner of the company, says they received a call to go to 1404 Wellington Avenue Monday. Hiteshew said the caller was very respectful and asked if the driver would be able to break a $100 bill.
“Our driver showed up, beeped the horn, nobody had answered the phone. All of a sudden, the customer came up to the door, opened it, pointed [a gun] at him and said ‘I’m going to need that $100.’ He had some kind of white paint or a white mask on his face,” Hiteshew said.
The victim told police that when he arrived at the location, a male in his 20′s opened the door to get into the taxi, pulled out a gun, and demanded money.
“The first thing he did was he told him ‘I don’t have $100’ and gave him the amount of cash he did have on him,” Hiteshew said.
The victim did not want to talk on camera, but Hiteshew told us that asking to break large bills would typically be a red flag but not this time of year.
“Typically, if someone calls and asks if you can break $100, it’s kind of a red-flag scenario for the driver to be more alert to his surroundings and everything but in the middle of July is kind of an odd time frame for this to happen. But there has been a rash of burglaries and things like that. Honestly, I think that’s a sign of some tougher times in Wilmington," Hiteshew said.
He believes a mix of hardships may lead desperate people to commit crimes.
“It’s the higher cost of living and the lack of real jobs. There’s not a lot of sustainability. There’s really not a lot of community support. There’s a lot of good community support. There’s a lot of good agencies out here but they’re still struggling to help these people out and get the supplies needed but when people get desperate they do desperate things," he added.
Hiteshew also believes the opioid crisis plays a major role in these type of crimes.
“Bottom line is we’re thankful that he’s OK. He’s thankful that he’s OK. He is back out serving the people and still driving. Obviously, the rest of my drivers are a little more alert and they’re being a little more cautious as to how they carry themselves too,” he said.
He said this is the second time one of his drivers has been robbed at gunpoint, with the first incident happening a few years back.
“This is the second time we’ve had a situation like this, last time was about three or four years ago. Typically when we see these kinds of things, it’s November, December, January, February when times are a lot tighter and money is a lot harder to get out here,” he said.
Linda Thompson, a spokeswoman for Wilmington Police Department, said the suspect was wearing black pants and a black shirt and had white paint on his face.
“We have a vague description. We haven’t heard anything but we are being fully cooperative with them and asking if any of the residents in the area if they have a Ring camera system or some kind of security system to check them out. They might have caught something they don’t even realize,” Hiteshew said.
If you have any information, please contact the Wilmington Police Department at 343-3609 or send an anonymous tip to Text-A-Tip by texting “CRIMES” (274637) and starting the text with “Tip708.”