Owner of burglarized store says he previously offered help to suspect

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Employees at the Treasure Box on Union Avenue often extend a helping hand to those in need.

Over the weekend, they say a man they've helped many times before returned their kindness with a tire iron.

"We have 16 cameras, so he was caught on camera," said store owner Mohammed "Mo" Kahok. "We got really good pictures of him on camera."

Surveillance cameras in the Midtown custom furniture store show a man breaking in Sunday around 3:40 a.m. by shattering the front door with a car jack. The burglary has shattered Mo's faith in humanity.

"Unfortunately it makes me not want to help anybody out," he said.

Mo recognized the guy in the video right away. Lonnie Harris, a down-on-his-luck guy, who Mo said they've paid to do odd jobs around the store for the last six months.

"He came Thursday, actually, and one of my managers gave him a $20 bill," Mo said, "to help him out because he gave him a sob story."

Store manager Shane Smith identified Lonnie, 48, from a mug-shot WMC Action News 5 showed him.  DeSoto County authorities picked him up for another crime not long after the Treasure Box break-in.

"We helped him out before," Smith said, "and gave him some money to help around the store.  And he was supposed to come back and do part-time work for us. I guess he decided to come and take everything."

Mo said Lonnie took $500 out of the cash register, stole some jewelry and did thousands of dollars worth of damage to their front door.  He also left behind the tire iron and lots of fingerprints, Mo said.

A repairman was working on the door when our news crew stopped by the Treasure Box to interview Mo and his staff.  The broken glass is an easy fix.  Restoring Mo's trust in people will take more time.

"It's really unfortunate," he said, "because Midtown does have a lot of people who pass by and require help.  And it makes you want to slow it down helping them out. You don't know who to believe."

Lonnie is in the DeSoto County Jail, charged with DUI, driving without a license and receiving stolen property.

He still faces additional charges in Memphis for the Treasure Box burglary.

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