Owners, employees traumatized after armed robbery at Lakeland store

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A store employee cannot stop picturing a gun being pointed at her face after a terrifying ordeal at Harvest Meat Market on Old Kathleen Road in Lakeland.

“There’s no excuse for what these individuals did to our precious employees because they are the most important,” said Ed Kirkland, who owns Harvest Meat Market with his wife Anita. “We thank God. We are ministers and we are Christians. We thank God that those angels protected them.”

To them, their employees are family.

“Our heart was broke. My girls, what they had to experience was just horrible,” Anita Kirkland said through tears.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is investigating an armed robbery that occurred at the beloved market Saturday evening at around 7:15 p.m.

Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

The pair of robbers entered the store through the back door and came upon two employees.

They pointed their semi-automatic handguns at the terrified workers and demanded cash.

Deputies say they emptied the safe, making off with thousands of dollars.

Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

“She’s like, ‘I was just wondering if I was ever going to see my family again or my grandkids or my kids’. She said, ‘I just knew I was dead’,” said Anita Kirkland of her employee’s experience.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office says the robbers fled in a silver newer-model KIA Sportage.

Courtesy: Polk County Sheriff’s Office

“We’re angry about this. Folks work hard for their money and they come in the back door, pointing guns in people’s faces. We’re not going to have it here,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.

A sheriff’s office investigator and a K-9 unit were at the scene Monday, continuing to collect evidence.

“If you’re the one who robbed, don’t sleep. Don’t relax because we’re coming after you,” said Sheriff Judd.

Both suspects are black males, and each wore a dark hoodie, beanie hat and gloves. One had a blue backpack, according to the sheriff’s office.

Anyone with any information is asked to call Detective Hewett at (863) 298-6960. To remain anonymous and be eligible for a cash reward leading to an arrest, contact Heartland Crime Stoppers 1-800-226-TIPS (8477) or www.heartlandcrimestoppers.com and click on “Submit A Tip.” You can also download the free “P3tips” app on your smartphone or tablet.

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