Greer Business Owner, Mistaken For Intruder, Faces Armed Police - WSPA.com

Greer Business Owner, Mistaken For Intruder, Faces Armed Police Response

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Police said they had a "rash" of crimes along Poinsett Street in Greer.  A stack of incident reports shows trespass warnings, stolen phones and missing laptops.

"We had a rash of them for a while. We had a subject that was going through vehicles and going through outbuildings up and down that street," said Greer Police Lieutenant Jim Holcombe.

Police asked the community to help out by looking for suspicious activity.  They did.  The result was an innocent businessman looking at the barrel of an officer's gun.

"We got the call for that business that had a prior breaking. That business normally is closed that time of day. It was unusual to get an open door call for that business," Holcombe said.

The 9-1-1 call came on April 18th.  The caller said she'd driven past Fowler Brothers Cleaners on Poinsett Street and noticed something was wrong.

"The door is wide open and it really unlikely for them to be open around this time," the 9-1-1 caller said.

The caller was right.  There was a door open and it was after hours.  The man inside was Fowler Brothers owner Ben Fowler.

Police responded to the call.  One officer circled around back and found a utility door open.  He slammed it shut.  Fowler heard the noise.

"II heard a loud noise so I went to the door I opened it and once I saw a police car here I felt like whatever was going on down there was under control," Fowler said,

"I took about 3 or 4 steps and I hear someone holler from behind me and I left the door open and as I turn around I saw them step around the door with a gun pointed at me."

Fowler has been robbed before.  Last year a man with a crowbar broke into his store and did $45,000 in damage.

"After our last break-in a year and a half ago I started carrying a handgun every time I came in because if I was going to be greeted with a crowbar, I don't want to have to shoot anybody, but I don't want to get hit with a crowbar either," Fowler said.

This night, the person pointing a gun at Fowler was a Greer City cop.

"You get calls like that at businesses that are not normally open you just want to take every precaution," Holcombe said. "You don't know who is going to be coming out at you if they're going to be armed or unarmed."

The officer ordered Fowler to the ground at gunpoint.  Fowler complied.  Surveillance video provided by Fowler shows the officers handcuffing him.

Fowler said he screamed to tell them who he was.

Police said they had to respond in that manner because they had no idea who was inside.

Fowler wants and apology.

Meanwhile, police said they now have a suspect in the rash of crimes along Poinsett Street and think the threat has diminished.

Holcombe said it's common for employees or business owners to call dispatchers and give them notice that they'll be inside after hours.  That, he said, helps prevent confusion.  He said several local banks already do it.

In most cases, you can reach dispatchers by calling the local non-emergency number for your local police.

In Greer, 848-2151.

You can click on these links for Greenville County, Laurens County and Pickens County.

Greenville City Dispatchers are at - 467-5333.

Spartanburg Public Safety dispatch is at 596-2076.

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