As they planned to rob a bar, they had no idea a dispatcher was listening in

Danville Police Chief Anthony Gray Jr.
Danville Police Chief Anthony Gray Jr. Danville Police Department Facebook page

Two masked men walk into a crowded bar where the police chief is eating. … Sounds like a great joke, but in real life, the men were never able make it into the bar.

On Saturday night at Brothers’ BBQ and Brewing Co. on South Fourth Street in Danville, two men were discussing a possible robbery plan while sitting in a parked car in the lot. They had no idea that one very important party was privy to their scheme as they were planning it — a 911 dispatch operator.

“A bunch of us were all sitting around, just talking and joking, and an officer walked in,” owner Mike Southerland said. Officers rarely make walk-throughs in the restaurant, Southerland said, but he really didn’t think twice about it.

“I thought, that’s weird. We exchanged hellos. … Ended up I know the officer’s mom, so we started talking. He was very polite, smiling the whole time,” Southerland said.

The officer eventually made his way over to Police Chief Tony Gray, who had just finished dinner.

“They start to walk out together, then Tony gets a call — I see Tony’s police face come on, so I knew something was up,” Southerland said.

Gray said he was notified that dispatch received a call and could hear people talking about committing a robbery, but the location was uncertain at that time.

“There was some conversation about when they should do it, they might be recognized if they do it in Danville, and I think they did talk about some different locations,” Gray said, noting that he hasn’t heard the actual tape yet. “Somewhere in the conversation, my name was brought up.”

Soon after, dispatchers were able to “triangulate the call” and figure out that it was coming from the general vicinity of South Fourth Street, Gray said.

So the officer came by, knowing that Gray was eating dinner there, and asked if he might have accidentally dialed 911 and was talking about a case to someone, since there was talk of robbery and they heard Gray’s name mentioned.

“When we stepped out back to talk, the dispatcher was able to pinpoint the phone, and the call was coming from somewhere in the parking lot at Brothers’. At that time, they located the two suspects sitting in the vehicle,” Gray said.

Gray said the 911 line was still open, so dispatchers were able to tell the officers they were with the two people who were still on the line.

“They were pulled out of the vehicle and patted down, found a mask on one of the suspects,” Gray said. No weapons were found in the vehicle, he said.

Meanwhile, Southerland was asked a curious question by a customer inside. “She wanted to know if I knew there were police officers with assault rifles in my parking lot,” Southerland said. Although he was obviously curious, he said he sat back a minute to let the officers do what they do.

“I did go out eventually, and I was told that ‘there seems to have been a couple of guys in the lot with the intentions of robbing you,’” Southerland said. He saw the two suspects, Robert Bourne and David Grigsby, and thought, “No way.”

“They were just in earlier having a beer,” Southerland said. “I saw a ski mask they’d taken from them and it was on the top of the car, and I thought, ‘Holy crap, they were seriously ready to do it.’”

Apparently, one of the suspects accidentally activated his cellphone’s emergency mode, dialing 911, letting a dispatcher hear their plan at the very moment it was being discussed. Dispatchers also heard the mention that Gray is sometimes spotted eating dinner at the restaurant.

“They have probably been released and charged with some alcohol-related offenses. We will be letting the prosecutor listen to the tape to make a call on any further charges,” Gray said.

Bourne and Grigbsy were both charged with public intoxication, a second offense for each. Grigsby also was charged with possession of an open alcohol container in a vehicle and disorderly conduct. Both were released on their own recognizance.