Two men -- one with a handgun and both without disguises -- robbed an East Columbia High's store in the middle of the afternoon yesterday, when more than a half-dozen customers were waiting in line to make their purchases.
"This is crazy," said Kim Mason, who was working the lottery machine at the time of the robbery. "I was bugging out. I mean, they did this in the middle of the afternoon, in broad daylight."
It was Ms. Mason's second week on the job. And if things had gone the way they were supposed to have, her shift would have ended by 2 p.m., minutes before the robbery.
But the next cashier was late.
About 2:15 p.m., a man described as a black male about 6 feet 5 inches tall and wearing a blue T-shirt and blue jeans walked into the High's store in the 5300 block of Phelps Luck Drive in Columbia's Long Reach village and brought a cup of coffee and a doughnut to the counter, Ms. Mason said. The man told the cashier he left his money in his car and would come back.
When the man returned, he pulled out a handgun and ordered Ms. Mason and another cashier to open the cash register. He also demanded money from customers waiting in line.
"We thought he was joking at first," Ms. Mason said. "At first, we couldn't get the register open. Then he said if we didn't get the register open on the count of three, he was going to shoot us."
Then the second man, described as a black male in his late 30s to early 40s wearing a dark-colored nylon warm-up suit -- entered the store and went into a back room, apparently searching for more money, police said.
"It seemed like they knew what they were looking for," Ms. Mason said.
The second man stole Ms. Mason's purse from the back room, then both men fled in a brown Toyota with an undetermined amount of cash.
One of the customers chased the two men in his truck, Ms. Mason said, and wrote down their license plate number. County police later found that that the car had been stolen May 9 in Baltimore.
"This was wild," Ms. Mason said. "I've never been robbed before. I'm ready to quit now. I'm not for this."
Police are investigating the incident and offering a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the men.
Call the Metro Crime Stoppers hot line at 276-8888.