‘Please let me live’: Virginia Fire Marshal robbed at gunpoint at Petersburg gas station

The Tri-Cities

PETERSBURG, Va. (WRIC) — A Virginia Fire Marshal was robbed at gunpoint on Tuesday night at a Petersburg gas station. The encounter was caught on a surveillance camera at the Shell station on Crater Road.

Still shaken up over the incident, Marlow Jones returned to the scene of the crime on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after if happened, to describe what he calls a near-death experience.

“Just to think that today my family would have been planning my funeral,” Jones said, stopping to cry. “Over some nonsense. The last thing I said was Lord please let me live.”

He says he went out to get his mother some ice cream and decided to fill up his gas tank while he was out. Jones recalled pulling into the gas station and parking at pump nine at 9:30 p.m. Surveillance video shows Jones at the pump next to his black car, that he just purchased. He says he was chatting with a friend when a white SUV pulled up to the pump next to him.

Jones goes on to say a female was driving the SUV and got out of the vehicle to pump gas. The man in the passenger side exited the white car and Jones said gave him a ‘strange’ look and was sizing up his new car. Jones says the man then yelled profanity at him in which Jones said he paid no mind and continued his conversation.

The crime video then shows the man charge at Jones with a gun pointed straight out towards his head. Jones says he stared at the barrel as it was aimed at his head.

“My life flashed before my eyes,” Jones described. “I didn’t have time to move or react. I just took off running because I just knew that was the end.”

Jones darted across four lanes on oncoming traffic wearing all black and said as he was running he said a prayer he wouldn’t get hit by a car or bullet.

“Every step I took I was anticipating the squeeze of that trigger,” Jones said. “I could feel the blood running before it even started running.”

Making it to a safe place, Jones said he looked across the street and saw the man rummaging through his car, but luckily Jones had the keys in his possession so it wasn’t stolen. The gunman stole two cell phones, Jones’ Fire Marshal badge, and items from his glove box. Surveillance video shows the armed thief walking away from Jones’ car and hopping back into the white SUV. The driver of that car quickly sped off on Crater Road.

Petersburg Police being credited for a quick arrest in the case. Just a few hours after the incident officers arrested 27-year-old Demarco Ford of Petersburg in connection with the case. He’s charged with brandishing a firearm and grand larceny.

“You gotta ask yourself why,” Jones told 8News. “What’s your purpose to do this man? Even if you would’ve gotten money or anything from me how long would it have lasted, but you would have taken me away from my family, from my city, from everything. I don’t take that lightly.”

Authorities arrested Ford, but not without Jones’ help. The state Fire Marshal says he used his law enforcement background to do his own work. He used his cell phone’s “where’s my phone” app from his home computer to track down its location. It led him to Van Buren Street and Jones drove there himself, noticed the car at the apartment complex, and called police.

Petersburg Police say they conducted several interviews and recovered items from the scene.
Jones says it’s hard to process because he has spent his entire life trying to lift up the city. He was a Petersburg Fire Marshal for 19 years, working side-by-side with the police department and is currently a state Fire Marshal. On top of that, Jones had a run for Petersburg City Council, volunteers his time at community events, and has a BBQ business to help the city’s economy.

After going through this horrifying experience, Jones has a message for the public.

“We’re just regular people with or without the badge. As you can see it can happen to anyone. Never let your guard down and keep your head on a swivel,” Jones advised. “Being at a gas station at night time is not the place to carry on a conversation. Just get your gas and go.”

Jones shared that he is usually legally armed at all times and the one night he stepped out without his registered firearm, he was confronted with violence.

“God had me the entire time,” Jones said.

Although he felt helpless, he is thankful to not have had his weapon because he says anything could have happened and “8News could be telling a different story.”

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