A Steeleville business on North Sparta Street is out an estimated $10,000 after a Thursday morning robbery.
Steeleville Liquor employee and former owner Will Smith told the Herald Tribune/Steeleville Ledger that himself and business owner Paula Mathon were the only ones in the store at the time of the robbery, which occurred around 11:30 a.m. Smith was assisting Mathon on check-cashing day for Gilster-Mary Lee employees.
"Two black men came walking in through the door, all bundled up, and one of them had a mask on and he walked over to the counter and stuck a handgun in my face," Smith said. "He said 'I'm taking this,' and closed up the cash box and ran off with it."
Smith described the suspects as being around 6-feet tall and 200 pounds. He said the other suspect was not wearing anything to conceal his identity.
Smith estimated the entire incident lasted less than a minute. The suspects then allegedly got into a black SUV that was parked in front of a house near the store and fled the scene.
Mathon's son, Jason, who was working at PJ's restaurant next door, came over to investigate the noise and later pursued the suspects in his vehicle.
Smith said the chase continued along State Routes 4 and 150 before Jason lost sight of the vehicle near Route 127.
"He got close enough to them to get the whole plate, but if it turns out the car's stolen, it doesn't matter," he said, adding that police ran the plate number and it came back with a Carbondale address.
Smith said that at first, he thought the incident was a joke.
"At first, I thought they were messing with me," he said. "I looked at that gun and it looked like a real gun.
"By the time I figured that is a real gun, they've got (the cashbox) and they're gone."
Smith said he bought the business in 2003 and sold it to Paula in 2006. He said he helps Paula out on Thursdays every week.
"She's had it ever since and I've never had any problems before," he said. "That's why I quit carrying a gun in the first place. I guess I shouldn't have.
"But it won't happen again."
Smith said the amount of money stolen reflects his profits for the whole year.
"Basically I came here every Thursday for a year to help Paula out and I have nothing to show for it," he said.
Steeleville Interim Police Chief Jim Zeidler said his department is working with the Carbondale Police Department on some leads. He said Steeleville police received a 9-1-1 call at 11:33 a.m.
"They called 9-1-1 as (the suspects) were fleeing the building," Zeidler said. "We do have a suspect vehicle we've identified."
Zeidler said it is the first business robbery he could recall in quite some time. Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to contact the Steeleville Police Department at 618-965-3134.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.