Christian County deputies arrested four people in connection to a robbery scheme in Hopkinsville on Monday.
The owner of Billy's Van and Truck Parts said he knows the man who threatened his life as well as the people who helped him escape.
As the owner of a small business, Rickey Utley prides himself on knowing every customer who walks through the door.
But Utley said he fell prey to some familiar faces Monday.
"They've at least come up here once a day or maybe twice a week, sit up here, smile at my face, act like the best friends you ever had," Utley said.
The owner said a masked man busted through his back door a few minutes before 5 p.m. Authorities later identified the robber as Jeremy Tillman. Utley and several employees were getting ready to close the shop.
"I've never been held with a gun and put on my knees, and somebody threatened my life for money," Utley said.
Tillman allegedly shoved the gun at Utley's head, made him kneel, threatened to kill him and the other workers and demanded money. The owner said the 25-year-old took all the cash in the register: $27.
"It chokes you up, you could have died all over $27," said Utley, a father and grandfather.
The owner said Tillman jumped over a barbed fence before hopping into a car with three other suspects. Authorities say the vehicle sped away so quickly, it almost hit an officer headed to the scene.
"People are capable of a lot, especially when they're backed into a corner," said Capt. Chris Miller of the Christian County Sheriff's Department.
Deputies caught up with the car off Cave Street. They arrested Jeremy Tillman, Devin Joiner, Timothy Dunn and Derrick Tillman.
Miller said by cooperating, the owner avoided a deadly situation.
"The best thing to do is cooperate," Miller said. "Businesses are insured, money's insured, money and property can be replaced, lives can't."
But in the future, Utley said he plans to keep a gun in his shop so he can better protect his employees. He hopes other managers hear his story, especially those in tight-knit towns.
"Yesterday was a wake-up call," Utley said. "Even the people we don't think would do it will be the first ones in the door to do it to you."
The four suspects are in Christian County Jail. Dunn, Jeremy Tillman and Derrick Tillman have all been previously arrested.
Jeremy Tillman was charged with first-degree robbery. Joiner, the driver of the vehicle, was charged with wanton endangerment and first-degree robbery. Dunn was charged with tampering with physical evidence after he tried hiding the gun. Derrick Tillman was charged with complicity to first-degree robbery.
Copyright 2014 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
1115 Mt. Auburn Road
Public File Contact: