GASTONIA, N.C. -- Police in Gastonia are working three separate kidnapping cases they believe are all connected.
Gastonia Police say the first kidnapping occurred about 1:30 Saturday morning when a victim, who'd just left work, was unloading groceries from his vehicle at home. Police say the victim was approached by two young, thin black men in their 20s, both wearing dark clothing and hoodies.
The victim was forced into his vehicle at gunpoint, while the suspects drove him to an ATM where he was made to withdraw cash. Then, police say the gunmen left in another vehicle that's believed to have been following along.
The second kidnapping reportedly took place about 6:30 Sunday morning. In this incident, the victim was confronted by two suspects, sharing the same description as the incident on Saturday, in the parking lot outside of his apartment. Again, the victim was forced into his vehicle at gunpoint and taken to an ATM to withdraw cash. This time, officials say, the suspects fled the scene on foot near Concord.
"This isn't the first time they did this. This is a pattern," said Claude Burdett.
The 69-year-old was preparing breakfast around 5 o'clock Monday morning for the Family Life Center located behind the Flint Groves Baptist Church.
The suspects knocked on the back kitchen door.
When Burdette opened, he was forced outside, and locked out off the building.
"They demanded my wallet. I said it is inside. I told him I could not get back in locked door. I was hoping they would turn around and walked off, but they would not do that," he said.
They waited for his co-worker Tony Patterson to arrive. The men stole cash from his wallet and made him withdrawal several hundreds dollars from a Charlotte ATM.
Even then, Patterson said he could not help but say a prayer for these men.
"I even told them going down the interstate in Charlotte, I'm going to pray for them. I think it hit them for a minute that we would even pray for them that God will take care of them, and they will be okay," said Patterson.
Several hours later, Patterson and Burdette returned to the church. Their families and church staff greeted them with hugs and tears.
The men say they were eventually dropped off at the intersection of Sugar Creed Road and I-85. The suspects had thrown the truck keys for them to find in the dark.
They eventually drove to a gas station and called police.
Police urging the public to beware of surroundings.
If you have any information that may assist law enforcement in this case, please call Crime Stoppers of Gaston County at (704) 861-8000.