Man recalls being held hostage when suspect was shot to death by police

CHERRYVILLE, N.C. — Customer Robert Moorman was one of the hostages being held inside a Gaston County restaurant by an armed robbery suspect on Thursday afternoon.

Authorities shot and killed Chucky Nathaniel Bowden, 53, of Cherryville, during the hostage situation, Police Chief Joe Ramey said.

“I can’t believe it,” Moorman told Channel 9′s Ken Lemon Friday.

It all started around noon when an employee at an HVAC business on Earl Road in Cleveland County was robbed at gunpoint, authorities said.

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The suspect, identified as Bowden, stole the woman’s cellphone, cash and a wedding ring before running off. Investigators said they were able to ping the suspect’s location using that stolen cellphone.

Shortly after the robbery, Cherryville police encountered the suspect and a pursuit began, involving several agencies. The chase ended when Bowden crashed on Highway 279 near Dick Beam Road in Gaston County.

After chasing after Bowden on foot, Cherryville Police confronted the man and shots were fired, officials said. Police did not elaborate as to who fired.

Bowden then ran off and evaded police, starting a search involving multiple law enforcement agencies.

Information led police to the Catalina Grill, formerly known as the Creekside Market, on Tryon Courthouse Road at Coho Road in Bessemer City, where officers found Bowden inside, holding several people hostage.

Moorman said he was inside standing in between police and Bowden, who was holding another customer hostage.

“You think you are dead already,” he said.

Moorman said he had no idea that Bowden reportedly led police in a chase, which led to shots being fired. Bowden had a gun at Moorman’s friend’s back, and they were trapped with nowhere to go.

“He said he didn’t care whether he died or not and I said, ‘Oh Lord,’” Moorman said.

Police stood at the door of the business pleading with Bowden to give up, he said.

“I beg you please, please just put down your gun and come on out,” Moorman recalled.

A few employees and a young girl hid inside the walk-in cooler of the business. Bowden, Moorman and the other hostage were the only people at the front of the business. Moorman said one shot rang out followed by several more.

“Like bam, bam, bam, bam!” Moorman said. “Like 12 shots after that.”

That’s when Bowden was killed by police, the police chief said.

Bowden slumped to the ground still holding the hostage, Moorman said. Moorman also saw his gun slide to the ground.

“It’s like you dreamed it again in your sleep,” Moorman said. “You are not going to forget something like that.”

Moorman said he doesn’t know who fired the shots. No officers or hostages were hit by gunfire, the police chief said.

A woman who spoke with Channel 9 Thursday said she has a friend who works at the restaurant.

“I’ve been trying to get in touch with them all night to make sure they’re OK and haven’t been able to get a response,” Allison Moore said. “I was hearing gunshots. I didn’t know where they were coming from or what direction … it sounded like it was right outside my back door.”

The SBI is investigating and no further information has been released.

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