Thieves target pharmacy in SW Houston

HOUSTON -- In the first seven months of owning his first business, Gary Cheema has been through a lot: a flood, a state audit, and early this morning, a smash and grab trio of thieves who emptied his pharmacy shelves.

Cheema recovered from the flood, the state audit was routine and went well. The theft did not.

"It was over and done in 8 minutes," Cheema said, as he looked on a missing wall in the back of the small shopping center, where Medic Pharmacy has been a fixture for 35 years.

He has the security video to prove it. It shows a truck ramming the rear of the building 3 times, a giant flash of light where the power was torn from the wall. The inside view shows 3 men with covered faces picking up trash cans and pulling drugs from the pharmacy shelves. Now labels that marks where controlled substance medications, like morphine were stored, are empty.
"They know exactly what they want, what will sell on the street," he said.

What concerns him as much as the business loss -- are his customers. A number of nursing homes and hospices are nearby and rely on Cheema to provide pain medication and more to their patients who need their prescriptions. "I provide free delivery," he said, "and if someone calls after hours I bring it to them."

Even as we looked around the store this afternoon, Cheema's cellphone rang with requests from nursing homes for prescriptions. He says he has a vendor who can replace the supplies, but new inventory may not arrive until Tuesday. "I'm so sorry," he told one caller. "But I'm here and I never stop working as a pharmacist."

He has heard about smash and grab thefts and robberies, but until now, never experienced. And he's trying to insure it won't happen again. "I'm putting steel and barricades in the back of the building. I'll be in a fortress."

He does have a promise to his customers, "They may have broken into my building, but they haven't broken my spirit."
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