DALTON, Ga. — A Cincinnati, Ohio, man faces charges of forcible purse snatching and driving with a suspended or revoked license following a “strong-arm” robbery of a trucker at the Pilot Travel Center at 243 Connector 3, south of Dalton, Tuesday morning. The Whitfield County Sheriff's Office is still looking for three other suspects in the robbery.
Walter Wathen, 52, of 904 Wells St., was arrested Tuesday after being stopped on I-75. He had a first appearance in Whitfield County Magistrate Court on Wednesday, where it was determined he will go to Superior Court for a bond hearing.
"The additional three suspects left in a different vehicle from the Pilot Travel Center," said sheriff's office Capt. Paul Woods.
Woods said they traveled north on I-75 and met up at the Red Roof Inn on West Walnut Avenue in Dalton with the Chrysler Town & Country minivan that Wathen was eventually captured in.
"It is believed after moving the (stolen) money from the van to the other vehicle, both vehicles continued northbound on I-75," Woods said. "So we do not believe the three suspects are in our area."
The robbery happened “in the back parking lot” of the travel center, according to a press release from Sheriff Scott Chitwood. A Pilot employee told a reporter it happened around 9 or 9:30 a.m. when the four men approached the truck driver about buying or selling tires. The employee said three of the men tried to hold the man while the fourth grabbed a bag with cash in it.
“The truck driver was strong-armed by four white male assailants,” according to the press release. “During the struggle, the victim retrieved a handgun that he had on his person and attempted to counteract the robbery by shooting at one of the assailants. Once the victim commenced shooting, all the assailants dispersed.”
Law enforcement issued a “be on the lookout” alert for the minivan. Shortly afterward, according to the press release, an officer with the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Carrier Compliance Division spotted the minivan traveling north on I-75 and stopped the driver around mile marker 341, about five miles north of the Rocky Face exit. Wathen was arrested without incident.
The other three men are described as between the ages of 30 and 50. One was dressed in black pants, black shirt and a black hat. A second was dressed in a white shirt and blue jean or khaki shorts. The third was wearing a gray shirt and hat.
The press release said there were no injuries.