A masked man entered Lakewood Drugs before the store had opened Monday morning, pressed a pistol to a female employee's head and demanded prescription drugs.
Nobody was injured and the suspect fled the scene without obtaining drugs, while employees locked themselves in a break room and waited for Lodi police to arrive.
Officers briefly blocked Ham Lane near Elm Street, and the drug store remained closed until shortly before 10 a.m.
"I thought he was going to blow my brains out," said the female employee, who did not want her name used because the suspect was not apprehended. "I thought I was going to die today."
Police were called at 8:39 a.m., shortly after the male suspect apparently entered the store from the rear door, which employees had propped open to take out the trash. The store opens for business at 9 a.m.
"The suspect put the gun to a female employee's head - actually touched her head - and demanded prescription drugs. She said they hadn't been delivered yet," Officer Dale Eubanks said.
The 13-year employee was later able to smile and return to cleaning a back counter where she'd been standing when she first saw the suspect.
"He came in and I turned around and I thought it was one of the kids," she recalled, pointing at a rear door. "I said, 'What are you doing?' I think I said that twice."
Then she saw the gun and her first instinct was to drop to the floor.
The man specifically asked for "Schedule II" drugs, Eubanks and employees said, which refers to prescription narcotics such as amphetamine and oxycontin. Eubanks said that means the man likely knows the drugs well and either wanted them for himself or to sell.
One witness told police the suspect may have first tried to open the door of a check cashing business before entering Lakewood Drugs, so police included it within their yellow crime scene tape.
As onlookers waited for the drugstore to reopen, Evidence Technician Carla Cole arrived and began dusting for fingerprints and taking photos for evidence.
In the 42 years Nick Spanos Jr. has owned the 12,000-square-foot Lakewood Drugs, the store has never been the subject of an armed robbery, he said.
"I had a store in Stockton, and we had burglaries and armed robberies there. Not here," he said shortly after arriving at the scene, at which officers had escorted shaken, teary-eyed employees from the building.
After the incident, some employees said they hadn't known if the suspect had accomplices who might have still been in the store during the robbery. Another female employee said she had no idea the business was being robbed until she heard something and walked into the back to find her co-worker huddled in a fetal position on the floor.
The suspect pointed his handgun at the arriving woman, who fled, pressed a panic button on the way, and then dialed 911 from her cell phone when she got outside.
In the meantime, the gunman had moved to a back room away from the woman on the floor, so she and a colleague managed to move to the break room, where they closed the door and placed a chair against it.
"Then we thought to turn out the light, so we were in the dark, holding hands," she said.
Schedule II drugsSuch drugs are considered highly addictive and can only be legally dispensed with a prescription.
The drugs include morphine, methadone, oxycodone, hydrocodone, amphetamine, methylphenidate and pentobarbital.
- Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration
After talking to police and shedding some tears, the employees returned to work. The woman who had a gun held to her head said she'd rather stay at work than go home and risk having someone follow her.
The suspect was described as a white man between 20 and 25, 5-feet-10 inches to 6 feet tall, 175 pounds, wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and a dark ski mask, which he took off while in the store. Police found a black hat in the parking lot, which they believed might also have been his, Eubanks said.
The man was possibly riding an import motorcycle with yellow paint on it.
First published: Tuesday, August 8, 2006