A loss-prevention employee at the Conover Kmart had to choose Sunday between stopping a theft or facing a knife-wielding man.
The Kmart employee tried to stop a couple from stealing electronics from the store, but he let the couple escape after one of the suspects pulled a box knife from his pocket, said Conover Police Sgt. R.L. Clark.
The suspects remain at large after what police are calling a "shoplifting gone bad."
A black male and a white female walked into the Kmart on 10th Street NW in Conover about 3:30 p.m. Sunday. They went to the electronics section, where the female placed several electronic items inside her purse.
The man and the woman walked out of the store minutes later, but the loss prevention department already noticed the couple and approached them at the store's entrance as they attempted to exit the building.
Loss Prevention manager Matthew Sanders, 31, tried to stop the couple from leaving and asked them to come back into the store. Clark said Sanders tried to reach for the woman's purse containing the stolen items.
The male suspect pulled out a box cutter and advanced toward Sanders to make him release the purse.
Clark said the male suspect didn't verbally threaten Sanders, but he reportedly said, "Come on, baby," to the female suspect as they left the store.
The couple fled in a white Acura passenger car with blacked-out hubcap wheels. Witnesses said the suspects took a left out of the parking lot and headed toward Interstate 40 west.
No one has reported seeing the couple since the theft, and Clark said Conover Police haven't received any tips about the incident.
The white female is described as 5-foot-7-inches tall and 200 pounds.
She has black hair and was wearing a gray jogging suit and white shoes.
The black male is described as 5-foot-10-inches tall and 250 pounds. He was wearing a black vest with a white shirt underneath and a black fedora hat.
Clark said it's possible the couple will try to sell or pawn the electronics for cash.
"One could guess that, but you never know," Clark said. "You usually don't know until you arrest them."
He said he wasn't aware of any organized retail-theft operations in the area.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Conover Police at (828) 464-4698.