Eunice Jernigan must be looking down from heaven and having a great laugh.
Once again, an armed clerk at her family's small store has chased off a bandit - just like Mrs. Jernigan herself did, five years ago.
Jernigan's Grocery is a small mom-and-pop convenience store between the two namesake cities on a rural stretch of Harlem-Grovetown Road. On Monday, Columbia County deputies say 30-year-old Anthony Graddy, of Grovetown, walked in, rifle in hand, intent on robbery.
Clerk Paul Pape accumulated enough wisdom in his 71 years to recognize a pellet gun when he saw one. As Sheriff's Office spokesman Capt. Steve Morris put it, Pape was "unimpressed."
The would-be thief, however, clearly was surprised when Pape pulled a gun from under the counter. "I grabbed a pistol and whipped it on him right quick, and he took off," Pape told reporter Scott Trubey.
Even better, Pape provided a detailed description of the getaway car and its driver, which helped Columbia County deputies to spot, chase and arrest Graddy just 20 minutes later.
It turns out this isn't Graddy's first brush with the law, either. He's been a frequent flyer with the Georgia prison system, mostly for relatively petty drug crimes. He's now cooling his heels at the Columbia County Detention Center, facing a far-more-serious armed robbery charge and a list of traffic offenses related to his 90-plus mph flight from officers - along with other charges relating to his prior felonies.
Where does Eunice Jernigan come into all this? Well, in March 2002, two punks, one of them armed with a knife, also tried to rob the little store - and faced off with the 77-year-old when she produced a .38 pistol. "I told him I'd blow his damn brains out," Jernigan said at the time, "and out the door they went."
Mrs. Jernigan passed away last September, God rest her feisty soul. Pape and his wife, Dorothy, are now protecting the cash-register.
Clearly, it's in safe hands!
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