Gastonia tire shop owner turns to Facebook for help after thief makes off with wheels

(Bria Bell | WBTV)
(Bria Bell | WBTV)

GASTON COUNTY, NC (Bria Bell/WBTV) - A local business owner says he called on the community to help him solve a crime - and the community did just that.

After having goods stolen from his tire shop, Steve Fortner posted surveillance video to Facebook in hopes of catching the culprit. Fortner is the owner of Tire Country Inc, and he's a man who prides himself on being honest and reliable to the drivers of Gastonia.

It's good business to have tire promotions throughout the year, but for Fortner and Tire Country Inc, it was bad business when a man thought he could get away with a five-finger discount, making off with two wheels and two tires for a 1987 Chevy El Camino.

"He pulled up, parked, grabbed them and was gone within three or four minutes," said Fortner. 
Inspired by new CBS show "Wisdom of the Crowd," which centers on getting help from the public to solve crimes using social media, Steve Fortner did the same. He posted surveillance video of the theft on a community Facebook page. The post got more than 30,000 views, as well as some tips to Gastonia police.

"It blew my mind. I mean, how in the world did 36,000 people... I mean it wasn't people, it was views - maybe 10,000 people watched it three times," Fortner said.

Those tips led officers right to the guy they believe is in the video, 68-year-old Edward Lee Connor Jr. Connor, officials say, has a lengthy criminal record in Gastonia.

"He ain't no spring chicken, it wasn't his first offense either," Fortner said. "That vehicle was in relation to multiple break-ins in Gastonia."

Now that he claims to be an expert on how to catch a criminal, Fortner has a message for anyone who may feel as daring the man who took his tires:

"Don't take my stuff. I will find you. I'm going to find you."

With the alleged thief now sitting in jail, Fortner says all he wants is his tires and wheels back. If that happens, he says he'll drop charges.

He also wants to thank everyone that was involved in the arrest.

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