North Fulton County

Business owner pulls gun on burglary suspects, helps end string of break-ins

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — Three men and a 16-year-old are facing charges after police said they burglarized several gas stations in Alpharetta.

Early Saturday morning, the owner of a Shell station on State Bridge Road, who asked not to be identified, told Channel 2's Mike Petchenik that his wife came to work and encountered the men inside of their store.

“They broke all my frames in the bottom parts and pulled the whole window down,” the man said. “They ran out the door and took the cigarettes and whatever they wanted to take."

Alpharetta police told Petchenik the store was one of several hit Saturday morning.

Petchenik obtained seven police reports for the gas station burglaries that started Thursday. Police were still trying to tie the people charged to all of them.

"They started receiving additional alarm calls at other gas stations in our city," spokesman Howard Miller told Channel 2 Action News.


Miller said an officer on patrol had a hunch the suspects would hit a location on Hembree Road, and when he drove by to check on it, sure enough the suspects were inside, Miller said.

“The suspects saw our officer and jumped into their vehicle, which was a stolen Jeep,” Miller said.

“Our officer, not wanting to endanger lives, wasn’t traveling that fast, lost sight of the vehicle, but gave a description out to Milton and Forsyth County," Miller said.

Forsyth County deputies later intercepted the men at a gas station off Union Hill Road, and after a chase, police said they crashed their Jeep and ran.

Joe Apel was working in his nearby automotive repair shop, Team 1 Automotive Experts, when he saw a social media post alerting people in the area near his business to be on alert.

“We kind of knew they were looking for people because of tons of cops, helicopter,” he said.

Apel said a few minutes later, two men walked into the lobby.

“They were just a little fidgety, asking weird questions,” he told Petchenik.  “I grabbed my handgun out of the drawer.”

Channel 2 Action News obtained surveillance video that shows Apel pulling his gun and ushering the suspects out the front door.

“I asked the guys several more times to leave and we can make phone calls outside.  He approached me once and started to approach me one more time and that’s when I drew my gun and asked them to leave,” he said.  “It was the last thing in the world I wanted to do.”

Apel said the timing was impeccable, because police were waiting outside to take the men into custody.

“I just hope they learn something from it and maybe it changes their minds and puts them on a better path,” he said.

Police have charged 23-year-old Joshua Pitts, 17-year-old Tyrese Rivers and 17-year-old Sadaqua Holmes along with the 16-year-old accomplice.

“They’ve got to be stopped somehow,” said the Shell gas station owner.  “I hope they send them to jail for a lifetime. When they get out tomorrow, they’re gonna do the same thing.”

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