By Joel Hall
Morrow Police have arrested six suspected gang members in connection with a brazen smash-and-grab robbery at Southlake Mall early Sunday morning.
In an attempt to send a message, local prosecutors are seeking to try all six defendants -- three of whom are juveniles -- as adults in Clayton County Superior Court, according to District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
Octavis Antonio Nix, 18, Melvin Lewis Allison, Jr., 19, and Eric Lewis Davis, 19 -- all of Atlanta -- were arrested Sunday morning, along with three juvenile suspects. Nix, Allison, and Davis are currently awaiting a preliminary hearing at the Clayton County Jail, and the three juveniles are being held at the Clayton County Regional Youth Detention Center in Lovejoy.
Shortly after 2:30 a.m., on Sunday, according to Capt. James P. Callaway, of the Morrow Police Department, the six suspects allegedly rammed a stolen Dodge Intrepid into the south entrance of the Macy's at Southlake Mall. Once inside the store, they allegedly raided the men's department, stealing 292 pieces of clothing valued at $21,801.50, including more than 100 Polo shirts, more than 100 Tasso Elba shirts, and multiple pairs of Izod shirts and Nautica jeans.
The six-suspect team used another stolen vehicle -- a Dodge Caravan -- as a getaway car to haul away the stolen merchandise, Callaway said.
"There was definitely some succinct planning going on," he said. "We are looking at video surveillance right now to see if they were in the store previously. They drove the Dodge Intrepid into the Macy's. It was on the south entrance ... right where all the Polo stuff is. They used the van to haul all the loot from the store. As they were leaving the Macy's, we were already responding to the Macy's [alarm], and our crews gave chase."
According to Callaway, the Morrow Police Department chased the suspects into Jonesboro, where the Jonesboro and Clayton County police departments joined the pursuit. The suspects allegedly ditched the van near the corner of Tara Boulevard and Fayetteville Road and led police on a foot chase in nearby woods.
One of the suspects was arrested during the foot chase, according to Callaway. Four others were arrested shortly after the chase, at the Waffle House at 8765 Tara Boulevard.
"There was a lot of good cooperation between the police agencies," Callaway said. "Two of them [the suspects] were in the bathroom [of the Waffle House]. Two of them were sweaty and muddy from running. We got a call from a concerned citizen that they were suspicious."
The sixth suspect, a juvenile, turned himself in at the Morrow Police Department at approximately 10:30 a.m., Sunday, Callaway said.
The suspects caused "tens of thousands" of dollars worth of damage to the south entrance of the Macy's, according to Callaway, including glass damage and damage to the store's roll-down gate.
Macy's Spokesperson Melissa Goff declined to comment on the matter on Monday, but said the store is "cooperating with the police department, fully."
Authorities are tagging the alleged robbers with a slew of charges, including: commercial burglary, felony theft by taking, criminal trespass, conspiracy to commit burglary, felony fleeing, contributing to the delinquency of a minor (for the three adult suspects), loitering and prowling, theft by receiving stolen property, littering, and violating the Georgia Street Gang and Terrorism Prevention Act.
Callaway said the suspects are believed to be members of the Atlanta-based "30 Deep Gang," but said "their relationship to 30 Deep ... is under investigation."
District Attorney Lawson said, if convicted, each could face more than 100 years in prison. On Feb. 22, before Juvenile Court Judge Steve Teske, Lawson will attempt to try the three juveniles involved in Superior Court, rather than Juvenile Court, she said.
"This is the first time as a DA that I have made a motion for juveniles to be tried as adults, but that's how serious I think this case is," she said. "They were all acting in concert, they all participated ... and, therefore, they should all be tried together. We're trying to send a clear message that Clayton County is not going to tolerate this kind of criminal activity."
According to Callaway, the three adult suspects will have their preliminary hearing in Clayton County Superior Court on Feb. 18.