"I did something wrong" accused gunman in Belmont drug store standoff tells Judge
BELMONT, NC (WBTV) - A Gastonia man, who police say held three CVS employees hostage, and shot at Belmont officers, says "I did something wrong."
46 year old Edward Russ had a court appearance Monday afternoon in Gaston County. He appeared on a video monitor from the Gaston County Jail.
Russ is being held on $5M bond for a long list of charges - including kidnapping, robbery, and attempted murder - for shooting at police.
Russ told the Judge, "I truly apologize for the charges. I did not mean to shoot the firearm at the law enforcement officers. That was just kind of a scare thing I did. They scared me real bad. I apologize. I did something wrong."
It started just before 2am Friday at the CVS Pharmacy on Wilkinson Boulevard in Belmont.
Police say when Russ walked into the CVS with an SKS scope mounted rifle, a customer who spotted him ran out immediately and called 911.
Officers say Russ managed to lock the door and forced three employees - a manager, the pharmacist and a clerk - to the pharmacy area. When police arrived and pried open the door, they say they found Russ sitting on a stool behind the pharmacy. Detectives say when Russ spotted the officers, he opened fire. Police returned fire.
According to the Magistrate's Order, Russ ordered one of the hostages to tell police that if they didn't back off Russ would kill the clerk.
Police left and called the hostage negotiator.
10 agencies responded with a SWAT team and negotiators who talked to Russ on the phone.
A two block radius around the store was cordoned off by police during the standoff.
Hostages told police Russ was "very polite, very nice and not mean at all" to them.
Russ asked the hostages if they have children. Police say the Store Manager and the Pharmacist told him they have kids. Those hostages told police Russ released them immediately, and promised not to hurt the clerk – who was the one remaining hostage.
Police say Russ talked to the hostage negotiator several times – but kept "stalling" his surrender. Detectives say Russ made no demands.
Police say they were able to see exactly what Russ was doing inside the store because they had access to the live feed from surveillance cameras. An I-T worker from CVS went to the command center and showed police how to watch the feed.
Detectives tell WBTV they could see Russ taking pills from the pharmacy. According to the Magistrate's Order, he allegedly took Percocet – street value of $764.
Investigators tell WBTV what was critical for them was being able to see Russ' every move inside the store. They say they knew when he was taking pills. They saw every time he put the rifle down. Police say as long as they could see and make contact with Russ - they felt they had the situation under the control.
WBTV has also learned that Russ, at one point, called his son and his girlfriend – and told them he was going to prison. Investigators say Russ' son showed up at the scene to help police talk to him.
Officers say Russ eventually released his only hostage around 4 o'clock.
Then, just after 7am – police say Russ put the rifle on the counter at the front of the store, raised his hands over his head, walked out, and surrendered.
No one knows why he did what he did.
WBTV's Kristen Hampton talked to Russ' mother after the standoff Friday morning.
She said it is very out of character for her son to do something like this and she just doesn't know what happened.
Monday afternoon Russ' father talked to WBTV.
Howard Russ said "the best thing I can tell you is that this what happened is the direct opposite of who he is. I can't make excuses. I don't know what happened."
The elder Russ said he didn't realize his son wasn't home. He said 10:30p the night before, his son said he had a headache and was going to bed.
Howard Russ said he found out about the standoff from police.
"Police came in 4 o'clock in the morning and woke us up. I told the cop - I said man, he's back in the bed asleep" said Howard Russ.
Russ' parents are wondering why it happened.
"It's that thing you play over in your mind – over and over – trying to figure out you know what could have happened. And you don't know" said Howard Russ.
The parents were in court Monday afternoon when their son asked the Judge to lower his $5M bond because he says his mother's health is failing. The Judge kept the bond at the same amount. He told Russ his court appointed attorney could make a motion for a bond hearing.
His father said he and his wife went to court because "we want to see him. I mean he's still our son you know, and we love him."
CVS Pharmacy released a statement in response to the incident:
"We are pleased to confirm that none of our employees were harmed during the incident in Belmont and we want to thank law enforcement in Charlotte and Belmont for their quick response and resolution.
Regarding the specifics of what occurred, as this is an on-going police investigation we are deferring to them for any comment.
The Belmont store re-opened Friday afternoon.
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