Two burglars recorded on surveillance cameras inside the Morrow Target store wore clothes that looked awfully familiar to local police.
Morrow Police Sgt. Larry Oglesby said he viewed the images after the Feb. 23 burglary and noticed something he'd seen before. "I recognized what they were wearing as a school uniform," he said. "You know, in Clayton County, you can identify any student by their uniform. I knew this was a Morrow school, so I went to the high school."
Officials there identified the uniform as that of Morrow Middle School. One of the burglars was readily identifiable by a school resource officer, said Oglesby.
"I told them to call his mother to come up so we could question him," he said. "Initially, he lied about his involvement. His mother was upset, she didn't know anything."
When Oglesby asked who the second boy on the video was, the first boy told police, "Oh, that's my friend,'" he said.
"We brought the second kid in and he sang like a bird," said Oglesby. "He told us they all knew what was going on, they'd planned it and recorded the plan on videotape."
That's right, he said, the whole burglary was videotaped by three 14-year-old boys, two of whom committed the crime. The recording device was left in a backpack and found by the mother of one of the boys, said Oglesby.
"One was the mastermind and told the other two how to get into the store, to steal, not one, but two iPads, a PSP [a hand-held Play Station device] and cell phone," he said. "The mastermind told the other two he'd pay them $180 for the PSP, once they stole it. He told them what to do, but told them he couldn't go with them."
One of the boys got his mother to drive them to the Target, on Feb. 23, at about 8:30 p.m., and asked her to return later to pick them up. Once inside, the pair headed to the customer service desk to ask about the balance on a gift card. They then wandered through the store as customers do, waiting for closing time, said Oglesby.
At closing time, the mother came back for her son, but the second boy stayed inside. "You can see him on the store video, hiding in the storage area, hiding behind boxes," he said. "He got a screwdriver and tried to pry open the electronics case, but was only able to get out a Trac phone."
The boy then left the store and started walking home.
Within days, police put the pieces of the puzzle together and arrested the trio at their school. "We picked them up at their schools to send the message to their classmates, 'This is what you can't do,'" said Oglesby. "You can't commit a crime in your school uniform."
He also praised the collaborative efforts of the school resource officer, other school officials and the two mothers of the boys.
Oglesby said the two boys, who went inside the store, admitted their role and were sentenced to house arrest and probation after a hearing Friday in Juvenile Court. The alleged "mastermind" is in the care of his grandmother and refuses to admit his role, despite the videotaped evidence.
"His grandma is fighting it, so his case is still open," he said.
Oglesby said he hopes the conviction sends a strong message to any criminal.
"If you come to this city, into Morrow, and commit a crime, we're gonna arrest you," he said.