FORMER CROSSVILLE BUSINESSMAN LINKED TO 11 OR MORE PHARMACY ROBBERIES

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A Crossville man believed to be linked to 11 robberies of businesses across the Southeast has been charged in the robbery of a Bristol, Virginia pharmacy.

Terry Hassler, 43, of Crossville, Tennessee, has been charged with robbery in connection with the May 29 robbery at the Rite Aid on Euclid Avenue.

Sgt. Steve Crawford with the Bristol Virginia Police Department said Hassler remains incarcerated at the Bradley County jail in Tennessee, where he faces other charges.

Police were called to the Rite Aid pharmacy at about 7 p.m. on May 29. A man disguised from head to toe entered the store, walked directly to the pharmacy counter and handed the clerk a note demanding oxycodone.

The man, whose face was covered with an “old man’s” mask, carried a cell phone at his ear, and did not display a handgun, Crawford said.

The employee gave him thousands of dollars worth of medication. He left on foot and witnesses said he was last seen walking south on Commonwealth Avenue. It’s not known whether he got into a vehicle.

In addition to the mask, he had a hat, sunglasses, a coat with long sleeves, and pants. Only his white hands were visible, Crawford said.

“We were at a point where we had no leads here,” Crawford said. “You kind of depend on looking at local people and getting help from the public, but we weren’t getting anything, so we started pointing to somebody outside the area.”

More than a week later, on the afternoon of June 8, 911 dispatchers in Cleveland, Tennessee, were advised of an armed robbery in progress at a CVS pharmacy.

Officers were advised that a person fled the scene in an unknown white vehicle, according to Sgt. Evie West of the Cleveland Police Department. Officers saw a vehicle fitting the description leave the parking lot of the business.

West said the vehicle failed to stop and police pursued for about six miles until the driver finally stopped. Once stopped, West said the driver complied with officers’ commands and was taken into custody.

The man, later identified as Terry Hassler, was taken to the Cleveland Police Department, where detectives further investigated.

Hassler was charged in Bradley County with aggravated robbery and evading arrest.

“A few days later, they put a teletype out talking about the robbery,” Crawford said. “I started looking at the details and it sounded like our guy.”

Crawford obtained pictures from the Cleveland robbery and compared them to the Bristol robbery.

“It’s definitely the same mask and same clothes and everything,” Crawford said. “I traveled down there to talk to him. He already hired an attorney.”

Crawford said he’s learned Hassler has been connected with 11 robberies, including two bank robberies in central Tennessee.

In addition to Bristol and Cleveland, Hassler has also been charged in Harriman, Tennessee, where police investigated the robbery of another CVS pharmacy. A grand jury in Roane County, where Harriman is located, indicted Hassler on an aggravated robbery charge.

Other robberies in Tennessee and Alabama remain under investigation, according to authorities.

At each robbery, the perpetrator wore a mask, coat and handed the clerk a note. In each robbery, Crawford said the perpetrator retrieved the note back and left the business.

But in the Cleveland robbery, the clerk refused to return the note. That’s when Crawford said the man displayed a weapon. By the time the man retrieved the note and left the store, someone had already called 911 and police were on their way, Crawford said.

In Cleveland, Crawford said the robber had a cell phone jammer strapped to his ankle to keep witnesses from calling police. He believes one was also used in Bristol.

The man managed to get away with a large number of oxycodone pills from each robbery, Crawford said.

Crawford said it’s not known when Hassler will be extradited to Virginia to face the robbery charge.

Hassler was part owner of Dave’s Pawn Shop in Crossville along with another shop he operated solely.