SYDNEY, NS “He came very quickly towards me and suddenly he took out the knife.
This is how store worker Sandeep Amaraneni recalls the robbery which happened at the Terrace Convenience in Sydney at 10.45am on Monday while working.
“He kept (the knife) on the table and he said, ‘Give me the money,'” said Amaraneni, a 26-year-old former international student at Cape Breton University in India. He graduated in May 2021 and studied public health.
“He covered his face with a mask, I don’t know what type of mask it was. I could only see his eyes.
Amaraneni, who was the store’s only employee at the time, said he was “a bit nervous” as he had never seen anything like it at the convenience store, which is owned by Suresh Gudimetla. The person, a man, was tall and wearing a black hoodie covered in a light blue plastic bag with cut-out armholes.
“But I wasn’t (got) scared because I should be strong. That’s why I wasn’t (got) too scared,” Amaraneni said.
Amaraneni pressed the store’s panic button, which calls the police, and tried to keep the suspect in the store and talk to him until police arrived. Amaraneni tried to pretend he didn’t know how to withdraw money from the till, but said the man threatened to come behind the counter.
“And then I opened the drawer and started donating money,” he said. “I took it a little slow, took the cover off and tried to give change, like dimes, quarters and all.”
Amaraneni said the man demanded the $20 bills, so he handed them over one by one to delay.
“So he said to me, ‘Whatever money you keep in the closet, it’s fine.’ …And I gave (it) to him and he took (the money) and he ran away from the store.
Cape Breton police arrived quickly at the Terrace Street convenience store, Amaraneni said, and proceeded to Acadia Drive, where the man had fled. Officers confined the area and conducted a search with a K9 team, according to a police news release.
“Within minutes we had the police there,” Gudimetla said. “They did really well actually.”
Police were alerted to a potential suspect at a residence on Ranna Drive, where officers responded and located a youth matching Amaraneni’s description and in possession of a bag of cash.
A 14-year-old boy has since been arrested and charged with theft and possession of a weapon. After further investigation, the youngster was released on a promise to appear in Sydney Provincial Court on February 16.
The Cape Breton Post spoke with Chester Borden, executive director of the Boys and Girls Club of Cape Breton, based at Whitney Pier, to learn more about youth crime and the societal factors that can contribute to it.
“Whitney Pier has one of your lowest crime rates (in Cape Breton), and we’re playing a part in that by giving those kids something to do,” Borden said.
“We need to invest more money in prevention. I have been saying this for 40 years working with young people.
Borden said youth-serving organizations like the Whitney Pier club “are struggling to get funding,” especially during the pandemic.
“People keep asking for more and we keep trying to deliver, and I always ask the question: we’re helping everyone, who’s helping us?”
Borden stressed that early intervention was key and said his club hopes to expand to other Cape Breton communities beyond Whitney Pier.
“I always say that youth work happens after 3 p.m. most of the time,” Borden said. “Our club is open in the evening, our club is open on Saturdays. We are doing a summer program. It’s about prevention. More money should be invested in prevention.
Police said they are investigating two additional robberies that occurred over the weekend unrelated to the one at Terrace Convenience.
The first performed at Ultramar on Blowers Street in North Sydney on January 28 at around 9.30pm, while the second performed at Irving Oil on Kings Road in Sydney on January 30 at around 9.20pm.
In both cases, store employees reported that a man entered the store, demanded money at knifepoint, and left the store with money from the cash register. K9 and forensic identification officers attended both scenes and investigators are working with witness information and CCTV.
Anyone who saw or heard anything in these areas during these times, or has information about those responsible, is asked to contact investigators at 902-563-5151 or anonymously through Crime Stoppers.
Jessica Smith is a breaking news, human interest, environment and climate change reporter at the Cape Breton Post. Follow her on Twitter at @CBPost_Jessica.