INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A 47-year-old Sebastian woman had 911 on speed dial and whispered “robbery in progress” to dispatchers after she and her son were ordered to the ground by a gunman who held up a pharmacy.
“He handed the pharmacist a note with the (pills) he wanted,” said Justina Anuszewski, who was with her son getting a prescription. “He was not nervous at all, was precise and knew what he wanted. In a loud voice, he said he wanted ’15s’ and ’30s.'”
The suspect, Daniel Yerkes, 30, of Port St. Lucie, stole several pills, including oxycodone, xanax and dilaudid from Perkins Medical Supply before hopping in a getaway car, Indian River County deputies said. The incident occurred about 6 p.m. July 2 in the 3700 block of 10th Court, just west of Indian River Boulevard.
No injuries were reported in the armed robbery. The incident is the latest case connected to what authorities say is a growing opioid epidemic in Indian River County, where dozens of residents have been impacted by opioid addiction.
Moments before the robbery took place, Anuszewski was sitting with her 28-year-old son near the back of the store near the pharmacy area. The woman said Yerkes was standing about two feet away from them.
“He was scoping out what was going on behind the pharmacy,” Anuszewski said. “He made me very uncomfortable. I moved my purse.”
Anuszewski said Yerkes walked to the front of the store, put a bandanna over his face and then came back. Yerkes then pointed the firearm at the woman and her son and ordered them to the ground, she said.
“I was upset he pointed (the gun) at my son’s face,” Anuszewski said. “He could have ended my son’s life.”
Anuszewski, a registered concealed carrier, placed her hand on her firearm, but decided to not shoot. Yerkes pointed his gun at the pharmacists and demanded about five to six bottles of prescription pills and unnamed drugs, deputies said.
“I’m positive this was not his first robbery,” Anuszewski said as she described Yerkes’ demeanor in the incident.
Yerkes yelled at the pharmacists to ‘not press any buttons’ and was ‘counting down from 10 to one,’ Anuszewski said. The woman said Yerkes did not steal any cash from the register or any items from the victims.
“I decided he was just there for the pills,” said Anuszewski, who works as a legal secretary. “He did not touch anyone; it was just verbal intimidation.”
Anuszewski said a customer walked in during the robbery and she yelled at him to “get out.” The customer, a man, flagged down another passerby in the parking lot and told them the pharmacy was being robbed.
Yerkes then fled the store and got in a white Lexus, driven by Stacey Lofton, 35, of Port St. Lucie, Indian River County deputies said. Another motorist followed the vehicle the two suspects were in and dialed 911.
Deputies stopped the vehicle in the 7500 block of State Road 60. Deputies took Anuszewski and her son to the scene, where they identified Yerkes as the suspected robber.
“With quick thinking and good will of people, (Yerkes) was able to get caught,” Anuszewski said. “There are people who do get involved and help.”
Deputies arrested Yerkes and Lofton and took them to the county jail.
Yerkes was charged with six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, armed robbery with a deadly weapon, grand theft and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
Deputies found Lofton with several pills wrapped in tissue hidden in her buttocks. Lofton was charged with trafficking oxycodone, tampering with or destroying evidence and principal in first-degree to robbery with a firearm.
Yerkes was held Monday at the Indian River County Jail on $600,000 bond; Lofton was released Friday on $175,000 bond. Both have arraignments at 8:45 a.m. August 2, court records show.