By Ed Brock
Two Clayton County fugitives picked the wrong day to rob a Baltimore bank.
Along with the record snowstorm that blanketed the Northeast Friday, President Bush came to town on the same day as murder suspects and jail escapees, 28-year-old Shawn Stanley Gilreath and 25-year-old Floyd Wayne Williams, BCPD spokesman Bill Toohey said.
The Presidential visit meant the streets were filled with police on security details, but that wasn't the first step in apprehending the two men who escaped from Clayton County's jail on Nov. 18.
"A great deal of credit goes to a very sharp asset protection specialist at a Target store," Toohey said.
Toohey said the Target employee was on his way to work around 2:30 p.m. Friday when he noticed two men in the parking lot who were acting suspiciously.
"He called the security office and said start taping these guys," Toohey said. "He thought he was witnessing a drug deal."
Instead, the two men drove to a nearby Suntrust Bank where one went into the bank. They then drove to a nearby Lowe's and switched vehicles, getting into a white van.
They were being videotaped the whole time, Toohey said.
A look out for the van was issued and a unit that had been stationed on the interstate where the Bush motorcade was expected to travel began following it.
When the driver ran a red light it gave police an excuse to stop it. As it stopped, Gilreath and Williams, who were alone in the van, jumped out and ran.
They were caught after a short foot chase, both men armed with two handguns in shoulder holsters. Another handgun, a black knit cap and bags of money from the bank were found along the trail of the pursuit and more weapons were found in the van.
The weapons had recently been stolen from a sporting goods store in Colonial Heights, Va., south of Washington, D.C.
"It has since been discovered that a number of weapons taken in that burglary have not been recovered yet," Toohey said.
Investigators from the Clayton County sheriff's office flew to Baltimore on Monday to question the men. Neither Toohey nor Clayton County Chief Deputy Shelby Foles had information on whether Gilreath and Williams would be brought back to Georgia or why they were in the Baltimore area.
Both men were together in an exercise of the jail on the night of their escape. They forced their way through a security screen and scaled the perimeter fence at which point they got into a waiting car and drove off.
Foles said the sheriff's office still has no information on who was driving the getaway car and an internal investigation into the escape is still ongoing.
Williams, from Union City, has been charged with murder in the shooting death of 16-month-old Jose Arias and 48-year-old Alejandro Gutierrez in October 2001. He is also the half-brother of Michael Hutson, 30, who was arrested along with another man in April 2001 in connection with a home invasion at the same home and during which the robbers held a gun to Arias' head.
Gilreath is believed to be the mastermind behind the 1996
killing of 69-year-old Edwin Levi McCollum, a clerk at the now closed Bear Paw Army-Navy Store on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro. Gilreath possibly had connections to white supremacist groups, according to published reports at the time of his arrest. Officials find the pairing of Gilreath and Williams, who is black, odd because of his known associations.
"He made that known when I interviewed him (in connection with the Bear Paw killing,)" said Jonesboro Police Chief Mark Harris, who is black. "He wouldn't talk to me or look at me."
Harris was an assistant chief with the Jonesboro Police Department at the time of the Bear Paw shooting. Former Jonesboro police Lt. Roosevelt Smith, now a major with the Zebulon Police Department, investigated the case.
Smith said that Gilreath made an appearance on the Montel Williams talk show espousing his white supremacist beliefs prior to the Bear Paw killing and had paraphernalia from supremacist groups in his possession.
Gilreath had used weapons stolen from a DeKalb County Army-Navy store in the Bear Paw killing and was collecting weapons and ammunition in preparation for the collapse of the United States government, Smith said.