Police nab 6 in jewelry heist, suspects chased across Florida border

The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville, FL) February 28, 2001 Wednesday, Georgia Edition SECTION: METRO; Pg. B-1 BYLINE: Teresa Stepzinski, Times-Union staff writer BRUNSWICK — A Glynn County jewelry store heist triggered a two-state police chase along Interstate 95 that ended about 1 p.m. yesterday in Jacksonville with the arrest of six men who investigators said tossed a bundle of stolen watches out a car window during the pursuit. No injuries were reported. Nor were any shots fired either during the robbery or chase that involved officers from the Camden County Sheriff’s Department, Nassau County Sheriff’s Department, Georgia State Patrol, Florida Highway Patrol and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, authorities said. “It was an example of good police work and excellent cooperation between a lot of different police agencies,” said Lt. Jack Boyet of the Glynn County Police Department. The incident began about 11:15 a.m. when four men, including one wielding a hammer, entered Reeds Jewelers in the middle of Colonial Mall-Glynn Place about 2 miles from the interstate in Brunswick. “They smashed the glass of a display case, grabbed up some Rolex watches and fled leaving the hammer behind inside the store,” said Boyet, adding that about 18 of the expensive timepieces were stolen. Merchants and customers nearby said the three hammer blows before the glass broke sounded like gunshots — provoking confusion, momentary panic and an erroneous report of a shooting at the popular Southeast Georgia shopping center. Boyet said the robbers sped away from the mall in a gold Maxima with Massachusetts license plates that had been reported stolen earlier in Richmond Hill. Police found that car abandoned a few minutes later at a dead end on Goodbread Road about a half-mile from the mall. Neighborhood residents told investigators they saw six men bail out of the Maxima, jump into a small black car with dark tinted windows and a Florida license plate and speed away in that vehicle. Glynn police detective M.J. Hullihan discovered a Rolex watch lying on the ground beside the open passenger door of the Maxima. Glynn police Capt. Jack Hopper said the black car previously had been rented in Miami. Based on a description of that vehicle from the Goodbread residents and other witnesses, Glynn police alerted law enforcement agencies throughout Southeast Georgia and Northeast Florida about the rental car. “We had a lot of citizens who gave us good witness information,” Hopper said. County police and state troopers began chasing the vehicle as it fled south from Glynn into Camden County and then across the Georgia-Florida state line into Nassau County. “At one point during the pursuit, the occupants of the car apparently threw some of the watches out of the window. They had bundled them up in a shirt or other clothing before throwing them out. One of the officers saw it, stopped and picked them up,” said Boyet, adding that about 13 of the 18 stolen watches had been recovered. Jacksonville police Sgt. Malcolm Farmer said the police heard that Nassau County deputies were in pursuit and sent officers onto Interstate 95. About that time, police lost sight of the vehicle, Farmer said. A short time later, an abandoned 2001 green Chevrolet Impala rented in Dade County was found north of Jacksonville near Imeson Industrial Park. Farmer said police received a call about six suspicious men about a mile away in a neighborhood north of the Trout River and close to the interstate. Officers searched the area, where the men were found. All six surrendered, Farmer said. Their names were not immediately available, Boyet said. Glynn police detectives were en route last night to file charges against them. Information was not available about whether the six would waive extradition and voluntarily return to Glynn County. Times-Union staff writer Dana Treen contributed to this story.