Monday, October 12, 2015

Restaurant owner shot in botched burglary

Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller •

The suspect remains at large and the business owner hospitalized after a botched burglary in the overnight hours of Sunday, Oct. 11 in Grove.

Todd Merrill, owner of American Grill, remains hospitalized as of mid-day Monday, in stable condition at Mercy Hospital in Joplin, Missouri. Merrill underwent surgery mid-day Sunday to place a titanium rod in his left leg.

According to Grove Police Chief Mark Morris, an unknown male confronted Merrill at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, while Merrill was working late at the restaurant located at 1623 Main.

During the evening, Morris said, an unknown male allegedly entered the restaurant through the unlocked front door.

Morris said the suspect apparently discovered Merrill’s presence in the restaurant as Merrill was in a hallway at the rear of the business, near the restrooms.

Morris said the suspect fired multiple shots from a gun, striking Merrill once in the left leg. The shooter then fled the scene and Merrill was able to call 911 for assistance.

Morris said it appears the suspect fled the scene without taking anything from the restaurant.

Morris said detectives on the scene early Sunday morning indicate the incident may have been a botched burglary by the armed suspect.

Morris declined to identify how many shots were fired, only stating the suspect fired his weapon multiple times.

Morris declined to identify the caliber of weapon used in the incident. The surgeon was able to recover the bullet, which struck Merrill’s leg, for detectives

Because the incident took place in the dark, Merrill was unable to give law enforcement personnel a description beyond identifying the man’s gender.

On Sunday afternoon, Morris said detectives pulled surveillance videos from nearby businesses in an attempt to determine more about the suspect’s identity. Detectives also planned to interview Merrill a second time to see if more could be learned about the suspect.

Morris said detectives released the scene early Sunday morning, allowing restaurant employees to open the business as usual on Sunday.

Second Burgary At American Grill

Morris said he does not believe the botched burglary is connected to a burglary and fire, which heavily damaged the American Grill’s previous location on West Third almost two years ago to the date.

That incident, which took place on Oct. 28, 2013, was ruled arson by Donny Howard, with the Oklahoma State Fire Marshal's office.

Howard’s report ruled the 2013 blaze at the restaurant "originated at the gas grill and at the cabinet across from the grill."

Howard said the ignition source "was the gas grill and human interaction" and officially listed the cause as "incendiary."

In that incident, Merrill indicated someone broke into the restaurant through the drive-thru window before gaining access to the office and safe. What was taken in the incident was never released.

Neither Merrill nor any other employees were present at the restaurant during that incident. No one was charged or convicted in connection to the burglary and arson.

Morris said anyone with tips or information concerning this incident may contact the Grove Police Department at 918-786-6121. All information will be kept anonymous.

Weekend Burglary in Bernice
Sheila Stogsdill •

BERNICE – The doors of a Grand Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars building were pried open and a large amount of undisclosed amount of cash is reportedly missing, following a weekend burglary.

According to Bernice Police Chief Travis Lowe the break-in at the Bernice VFW took place between 2 and 5 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 11.

In addition to the missing cash, several bottles of alcohol and multiple cartons of cigarettes were also taken, Lowe said.

The VFW building is located on State Highway 85A on the community’s main thoroughfare.

Lowe said members of his department are tracking down a couple of leads.

At this time, he said, the preliminary investigation has not ruled out a link between this incident and the botched burglary at 12:30 a.m. Sunday, at the American Grill in Grove.

Lowe said anyone with tips or information concerning this incident may contact the Bernice Police Department at 918- 256-2222. All information will be kept anonymous.

The following stories appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 13 issue of The Grove Sun.

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