Richard Lee, 75, of Creve Coeur has owned both the Manchester Road and Kingshighway locations of Uncle Bill's Pancake House for 25 years, along with his bother-in-law and business partner William Choi.
He tells Town and Country - Manchester Patch he never could have imagined what happened Sunday evening when he was kidnapped and robbed in broad daylight. As previously reported, Lee was attacked, abducted and forced from the Manchester restaurant while the business was open with employees and patrons inside the building.
"Hard to believe in daytime, in Manchester. It's West County. I'm surprised even now," Lee tells Patch. "Thank God we are OK."
Lee believes the heist was an inside job. Someone who knows the business or an acquaintance of someone who knows the business.
"I think so, somebody who knows inside. They know what I'm doing on a daily basis, how to walk in," Lee said. "Every detail they know. Somebody has good information."
Manchester police are heading up the investigation and searching for two suspects, but they will not comment in whether they believe the assailants are familiar with Uncle Bill's.
Lee said it all began around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, a time when he routinely collects the weekend earnings from the restaurant. He had just emptied the safe and counted the money, about $5,000, plus another $15,000 in credit card receipts. That's when two males entered through the unlocked, open back door of the restaurant.
"Somebody attacked me," Lee explained. He said each of them grabbed one of his arms, then pepper sprayed him in the face and eyes.
They then forced Lee out the back door of the restaurant with the money and into his own car.
"They push me into my car, the back seat," Lee said. "One of the guys said sit down next to him. He pushed my head to the floor."
While Lee sat next to one of the suspects in the back seat, he said the other male got into the driver's seat and began driving. Lee kept his head down and could not see where they were going.
"I feel like we got on the highway and the driver was speeding. The back seat guy asked him, 'Slow down, slow down.'"
They eventually exited around Highway 44 and Kingshighway, and left Lee and his car at Boardman Street and Shaw Avenue.
Lee's kidnappers stole the money from the restaurant, his cell phone and his wallet which contained credit cards, cash and his driver's license. They told him not to move or do anything for at least 10 minutes.
"I stayed there, like they told him and I didn't move or anything," Lee said. However, he did grab his water bottle in the car and tried to rinse out his eyes and his face. "They were burning so hard. I couldn't see anything."
The rinse didn't do much to help Lee and after his estimated 10 minutes, he got out of his car.
"I needed help. I needed some water. So I got out in the street," Lee explained. He said a woman pulled up behind him and called 911. He said he still couldn't open his eyes because of the burning from the pepper spray. "Still burning hot and the smell was just so bad."
Police said Lee was sprayed in the face one last time when his assailants fled from the car. While Lee waited for police, the woman who stopped to help him, ran into her house and brought him more water and towels to rinse his eyes.
St. Louis Metropolitan police arrived and took Lee back to his Manchester restaurant where his wife of 46 years and business partner, Choi, were waiting.
"Good thing that they didn't hurt me. I was fortunate," Lee tells Patch Tuesday. "I'm glad I'm safe."
Lee is back at work, but making some changes as a result of Sunday's attack. The back door will now remain locked and the locks are being changed. He is also installing a new surveillance system in the restaurant. He said has installed them in the past, but they never worked that well. He said a newer, high-tech camera system will be installed this time.
Police are now searching for the two suspects who kidnapped and robbed Lee. Anyone with information on this crime is asked to contact the Manchester Police Department at 636-527-9200. Anonymous tips can be made to the St. Louis Regional CrimeStoppers at 866-317-TIPS (8477).