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Knife-wielding man tries to rob Giant in Muhlenberg, kidnaps 2 people, police say

By Pam Cunningham, Reporter
Published On: Jan 15 2013 06:00:00 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 16 2013 10:27:50 PM CST

Man sought by police after two carjackings

MUHLENBERG TWP., Pa. -

Police in Muhlenberg Township said they've caught the man behind a crime spree that included robbery and kidnapping.

Police said they caught 30-year-old John Topper Wednesday afternoon. They said his crime spree started at Giant when he walked in with a knife.

Police said a female clerk was threatened at knife point at 5:15 Wednesday morning at the Giant on 5th Street Highway. But before she handed over any money a male co-worker stopped the robbery.

"No, I didn't hear," said Marcia Smith of Muhlenberg.

Giant customers shopping in the afternoon had no idea what had happened and they were shocked when they heard the details.

"My gracious," said Mary Heffron of Reading, "I just think it's shocking because it seems like no place is safe. Schools aren't safe. Shopping areas aren't safe."

Police said John Topper, 30, ran out of the Giant to a cab. They said he put the knife to the driver's neck and also tried to rob him. The taxi driver was forced to drive and stopped when he saw a police car behind him.

Police said Topper then got out of the cab and ran on foot towards the train tracks near Route 61. Police brought in a K-9 unit, but they couldn't find him.

And around 7:40 in the morning a female victim who lives on Eisenbrown Street said a man hiding in her car grabbed her from the back seat and forced her to drive him to Reading. Police said before Topper left he stole her credit cards.

"I'm not a fearful person, but it would make me more cautious because it's something I can't control," said Heffron, "It would just make me cautious and do what I can do to avoid some kind of a situation."

"That's scary because I work at a bank so he could go and do the same thing," said Jenisse Peralta of Muhelnberg, "So, that's scary."

"I'm not going to live my life in fear," said Smith, "It could drive you crazy."

Police said the Wernersville man was eventually caught.

Police said Topper is facing charges of robbery, kidnapping and terroristic threats.