Funeral director Bruce Lightner says armed intruders tied him up, ransacked son’s room

akenney@newsobserver.comJune 13, 2014 

— Bruce Lightner, owner of a Raleigh funeral home, was the victim of armed intruders Thursday night, he said.

At the time of the break-in, Lightner was alone in his residence above Lightner Funeral & Cremation. The building is a red brick house with white columns that peers over the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Ellington Street.

“About 11:30, 11:45 – something like that, right – I was watching the Spurs beat up on the Heat,” the 66-year-old said Friday morning.

“I was in my bed and my bedroom door was closed – and these two guys bust in my bedroom door. Both of them had pistols, and … the one in the front put the gun to my head.”

The two men, who appeared to be in their mid-20s, demanded Lightner’s cash, which totaled about $85, took his cellphone and took food from the kitchen, he said. One intruder was smoking marijuana as he entered, Lightner said.

During the robbery, the intruders bound Lightner with tape and left him on the bed, he said. Two of Lightners’ adult sons live with him, he said, but both were away.

The men ransacked the younger son’s room, which is the only other bedroom on Lightner’s floor of the house. They seemed to be looking for something but left the rest of the house largely undisturbed, Lightner said.

“They didn’t know my son’s name. They just kept asking me where’s my boy?” he said. It apparently was a reference to his younger son, Nicholas Lightner, 24.

Request for medicine

At some point during the robbery, Lightner asked the men for medicine to relieve his chest pain.

“He got the bottle and put a pill in my mouth, and got me some water, and that was weird – holding a gun to my head and giving me a pill,” he said.

The intruders left Lightner bound on the bed when they left, he said, and he soon struggled to his feet and freed himself with some scissors from a bedside table. Because the intruders had damaged his home phone, he left the house barefoot in search of help, he said.

Lightner circled the area in his Ford Windstar van, searching for a police officer, and eventually had a grocery store employee call police, he said.

The intruders did not disturb the funeral home beneath his living quarters, Lightner said. The building’s doors had been locked but showed no sign of damage, Lightner said.

“Nothing ever happened like this,” Lightner said. “I don’t know of anybody breaks in a funeral home.”

Description of suspects

Based on Lightner’s description, police described the robbery suspects as two black men in their 20s.

The first suspect is described as having a dark complexion, standing about 5-foot-8 and weighing about 150 pounds. He was wearing a burgundy, zip-up hooded sweatshirt and a baseball hat, according to a police report.

The second suspect was described as standing about 6 feet tall and weighing about 250 pounds. He was wearing a white T-shirt and had a red-and-black bandana over his face, according to the report.

Investigators later returned with a search warrant. While clearing the building at Lightner’s request, an officer had smelled marijuana and seen the drug, along with digital scales, mostly in Nicholas Lightner’s room.

Officers later seized marijuana, a debit card, plastic baggies, digital scale and documentation of the fact that Nicholas Lightner lived at the house.

“He’s had a problem with marijuana his whole life, since he’s been in junior high school,” Lightner said of his son. “He assured me he wasn’t keeping any marijuana in the house, and I believed him. I don’t search his room – maybe I should.”

Police only found a “trace” of marijuana, Bruce Lightner said. He suspects that the intruders may have been looking for the drug.

Contacted Friday afternoon, Nicholas Lightner acknowledged previously smoking marijuana but said he was unsure whether there was any in the house Thursday night. He said he believed the intruders had come to rob his father or to burglarize the building. Police had not, as of Friday afternoon, filed any charges against Nicholas Lightner or made any arrests in connection with the break-in.

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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