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Manti residents shaken after store robbed

MANTI — A convenience store being robbed at gunpoint isn't unusual, but for people in one small town in Utah, it's a big deal because no one can remember it happening before.

Business owners in Manti say they've had a break-in or two over the years, but no one can seem to remember the last time, if ever, that someone pulled a gun and robbed a business, and that has people feeling unsettled.

The Top Stop convenience store is the only business usually open in Manti after 10 p.m. About 10:30 on Monday night, an individual armed with a handgun and wearing a disguise robbed the store's clerk.

For longtime residents, news about the robbery is a big conversation piece around town because people say they feel safe.

“Everybody's talking about it, a small town like Manti being robbed,” resident Scott Larson said.

While no one can remember another armed robbery here, folks say they are more cautious than they used to be.

“I used to leave my house unlocked for six or seven months at a time,” Larson said. “Now when I go outside I lock it every time.”

John Jensen is a third-generation owner of Jensen's, the local department store. In all its 90 years in business, he says they've never heard of an armed robbery.

“I talked to one of the old patrons today, and he can’t remember one,” Jensen said. “It’s been pretty quiet. Let’s keep it that way.”

But nowadays there wouldn't be much for a robber to get away with.

“There’s not a lot of cash anymore, credit card is it,” Jensen said. “There are some places in town that don’t accept checks anymore.”

Sanpete County Sheriff Brian Nielson said, fortunately, the small towns he protects rarely see a violent crime.

“We haven't had many armed robberies here in the center of Sanpete County, so Manti is a nice quiet town and there are a lot of those in central Utah,” Nielson said.

The sheriff said he's put the majority of his deputies on this case and is optimistic it will be solved very soon, even with poor surveillance photos.

"The quality is not very good, and we have still had a lot of tips that have helped us out and given us some good leads to go on,” Nielson said.

He said police are looking at a person of interest in the robbery, but are still asking for tips that could help the investigation.

Residents said they hoped this robbery is the last one they ever have to talk about.

"I hope it doesn't happen again because we have a nice little community here in Manti,” Larson said.

Email: spenrod@deseretnews.com