by: Ken Lemon Updated:
GASTONIA, N.C. - Gastonia police are investigating three kidnapping incidents since Saturday believed to be related
The first one occurred at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Police said a man had gotten off work and was unloading groceries at home when he was approached by two young, thin, black males in their 20s wearing dark clothing and hoodies. The man was forced at gunpoint into his vehicle, and the assailants drove the victim to an ATM in Gastonia where they made him withdraw money. The assailants then got into another vehicle believed to be following them and left.
On Sunday, around 6:30 a.m., another man was confronted in the parking lot outside his apartment. Two men of the same description forced him into his vehicle by gunpoint. They drove to several ATMs in Charlotte to obtain cash and then the men got out of the car and left on foot near Concord.
At about 5 a.m. Monday, two men were at Flint Groves Baptist Church, 2017 E. Ozark Ave, to prepare breakfast for a meeting.
Claude Burdette and Tony Patterson were met with hugs from family and church members.
"I am glad to be home. Thank the Lord for getting me home," Burdette said.
They cried as everyone gathered to pray near the spot where the men were kidnapped.
"My heart just fell," Patterson said.
The men said they came to Flint Grove Baptist Church to make breakfast for people around 6 a.m. They heard knocking at the door.
When Burdette opened the kitchen door, he said two men with guns made him come outside.
The armed men saw Patterson peep around the corner.
The robbers ordered both of them into Patterson's truck and they all drove to Charlotte.
One man kept a gun aimed at Burdette's side and a knife on the back of Patterson's neck. Patterson said he prayed for himself, then offered to pray for his captors.
"I said look I'm going to pray for you that everything is going to go OK for you. That everything will be fine," Patterson said. "That's what God would want me to do, pray for them."
The robbers forced Patterson to withdraw $900 from an ATM. Patterson said he thought they were going to kill him when they parked between two big rigs.
"That's when the guy said, 'What do we do now,'" Patterson said.
Patterson said he told the robbers to take his truck keys and cellphone and walk away. They did.
"We are worried that somebody is going to get hurt," said Capt. Steve Duncan with Gastonia police.
Burdette and Patterson were released at the Interstate 85/Sugar Creek Road intersection.
Anyone with information about these crimes can call Gastonia police at 704-866-3300, detectives at 704-866-6880, or Crime Stoppers of Gaston County at 704-861-8000. Crime Stoppers pays up to $1,000 for information that leads to an arrest.