Red Bay man arrested in pharmacy robbery

Pharmacist Donna Weatherford’s response is lauded as crucial to the situation’s safe resolution

Redmont Pharmacy employees take refuge beside a police cruiser parked on Golden Road in front of the pharmacy building. Traffic was blocked during the hostage situation. News photo/Katie Crum

Red Bay Police have one man in custody following a Tuesday morning armed robbery at Redmont Pharmacy on Golden Road.

Christopher David Thomas Trail, 28, of Red Bay, is charged in connection with the robbery. He was expected to be transferred to the Franklin County Jail in Russellville after the investigation was finalized. 

Initially five people – four pharmacy employees and a customer – were being held hostage, but pharmacist Donna Weatherford was able to talk the suspect into releasing the other four other hostages while she remained in the pharmacy with him. Her response was lauded by fellow employees and law enforcement as crucial to the situation ending peacefully.

The entire ordeal lasted about an hour and a half.

“I think she did an outstanding job,” said Red Bay Police Captain Eddie Chandler. “She stayed calm under pressure and pretty early on talked him into letting the other four hostages go.”

According to police, at approximately 8:50 a.m. Trail entered the pharmacy with a shotgun. About 10 minutes later the first four hostages were released.

“There was a little bit of phone contact between the suspect and people outside the pharmacy,” Red Bay Police Chief Janna Jackson said. She said law enforcement and a relative of Trail’s were able to talk to Trail during the situation. 

Ultimately, according to police sources, Trail obtained medication in the pharmacy and passed out, allowing Weatherford to escape and police to move in and capture him. After being taken into custody Trail was taken by ambulance to the Red Bay Hospital before being taken to the Red Bay Police Department. 

Tense situation

Rhonda Barksdale, a pharmacist tech at Redmont Pharmacy, was huddled with fellow employees outside the pharmacy after the situation was over. She, Emily Taylor and Jessica Young were in the building when the suspect entered. Barksdale didn’t witness the suspect enter the store, but recalled Young’s version of events.

“Jessica said he came in and asked if we were open,” Barksdale said. When Young told the suspect the pharmacy was open, she said he went back out the door and then came back in, this time holding a shotgun.

“When he came in, he racked (the shotgun), and then said, ‘you know why I’m here.’ And then he locked the door,” Barksdale said. “The next thing I heard, the pharmacist (Weatherford) said, ‘Everybody go to the back room. From that point on Donna handled him completely by herself.”

Within a few minutes, Barksdale said she heard Weatherford loudly say to the employees and customer that they could all leave.

“She convinced him to let all of us go,” Barksdale said. “Donna handled him extremely well to the very end. Very professional.”

Around 10:45 am pharmacy owner J.C. Weeks briefly met with his employees to update them on the situation. Employees were not allowed back in the store until after authorities were able to do an inventory to see what was taken during the robbery.

Weeks said overall his employees were holding up well following the morning’s events.

“Everybody’s doing well,” Weeks said of his employees. “I’m still a little shaken up, and I wasn’t even here. I’ve been worrying about them.”

“Donna was the mainstay,” Weeks said. “It was her coolness that controlled the situation.” 

Law enforcement from multiple departments and agencies convened on the scene to assist with the robbery and the aftermath.

“I would like ot thank all the responding agencies, Special Response Team, Franklin County, ABI, State Fire Marshals, Belmont Police Department and Russellville Police Department for all their assistance,” Jackson said.