PERRYVILLE — When James Pope first learned early Saturday morning that someone had broken into his business and cherry-picked his most valuable antique guns and coins, his blood was boiling
“I wished I could shoot them with one of those guns,” Pope said inside Merchants Row Cafe and Antiques, where about $15,000 worth of long rifles, pistols, rare coins, currency and other collectibles from the Civil War era had been stolen overnight.
But as the morning and his initial rage passed, Pope gained a new perspective on crime and punishment. He still hopes the thief is caught and the merchandise returned, but he was feeling more Buddhist than vigilante.
“I feel sorry him. Anyone who would steal from someone else, you know their life is miserable,” Pope said. “Karma will take care of it. It’s a setback, but life goes on. I know I’ll be OK.”
Boyle County Deputy Warren Lanham said Saturday afternoon that there are no leads yet but there was some evidence left behind that might be developed.
The thief apparently had big feet and a sweet tooth.
Lanham said one set of large footprints were found outside a basement door that couldn’t be opened. Glass from shattered display cases might contain fingerprints and will be sent to a Kentucky State Police crime lab for analysis, he said.
Entry was gained by prying open a door on the second story of the building. Vicky Douglas, who runs the cafe adjoining the antique store, discovered the break-in when she arrived about 8 a.m. Saturday. The cash register was open and the change was gone, Douglas said. A confectionery case also was open.
“They took some doughnuts,” she said.
Lanham said there was no evidence found indicating more than one person was involved except for the large amount of items hauled down the sidesteps and out the front of the store onto the street.
“If it was one person, he made a lot of trips,” the deputy said.
Pope suspects the thief had visited the store before, casing out the most valuable items.
“It was a professional job. He knew what he was doing,” Pope said. “He left the cheap stuff alone and only took the good.”
Along with several long guns, the burglar took Civil War pistols and currency, gold and silver coins, rings and other jewelry, and belt buckles from the period.
“All of it is easily sold at pawn shops and flea markets,” Pope said. “The building is insured, but I’m not sure if I’m covered for theft."
The theft put a damper on what has been a resurgence for Merchants Row. Historic buildings are being restored and new businesses are opening. A Valentines Day Extravaganza was under way Saturday and several people were milling about the district.
“I can’t believe that it happened,” said Perryville resident Laura Botner, who stopped by the cafe after hearing the news. “It’s getting bad everywhere. Danville had two robberies last week. It’s just getting scary.”
Pope said that while the crime hit his business hard, it’s negative impact will only be temporary.
“Things have been going good. Business has been good and things are happening with other businesses,” he said. “That’s what's so disappointing. You work so hard and then this sets you back. It’s sad is all you can say.
“But we’ve been reading poetry and having music down here every other Friday night and that will continue, thieves or not. We’ll keep it going.”