Published Thursday, March 22, 2012

Masked gunmen caught after robbery of AT&T store Wednesday

By John Winters

The Newnan Times-Herald

Masked gunmen robbed an AT&T dealer store on Highway 34 East Wednesday, but were captured within 30 minutes following a high-speed chase on Interstate 85.

No shots were fired during the holdup at the store near Thomas Crossroads, nor were any injuries reported despite an interstate pursuit that reached speeds of 131 mph, according to investigators with the Coweta County Sheriff's Office.

The two gunmen and the getaway driver are also wanted for questioning by authorities in neighboring cities, where similar robberies have occurred recently, said Major Jimmy Yarbrough with the sheriff's office.

The speed with which the gunmen got in and out, and knowing exactly where the high-end equipment was, is leading investigators to think this was not the first time.

Security cameras showed two armed men approaching the store, located in a strip mall near Thomas Crossroads, at 9:22 a.m. One suspect already had a mask on and the other was putting one on. A gray BMW, later identified as a 325i model, was also seen backing out of a parking space.

The two gunmen entered the store and one pointed a gun at the sole employee and ordered her to sit on her hands, Yarbrough said. The second gunman went into a back room to the safe and grabbed several high-end smartphones, a tablet and about $150 in cash, before quickly leaving.

Each gunman had a 9mm pistol.

"They didn't mess with anything in the displays, they just went straight for the safe," Yarbrough said. He said the estimated value of the stolen devices was about $4,000.

The employee called 911 at 9:26 a.m., and the first deputy was on the scene three minutes later, the major said, adding, "we figured they were headed for the interstate."

The BMW was spotted at the northbound ramp at Exit 47 at 9:32 a.m.

"The deputies got behind them, they (the suspects) spotted them, sped up and the chase was on," Yarbrough said.

Additional investigators and deputies joined the pursuit and Fulton County authorities were notified as well.

What transpired, according to investigators involved, was a high-speed chase with the BMW hitting 131 mph at one point. The getaway driver weaved in and out of traffic, crossing several lanes at once and at various points went into the emergency lanes.

Deputies were able to stop northbound traffic around mile marker 52, which slowed down the pursuit, although the BMW got through.

The suspects finally left the interstate at Exit 61 (Fairburn), hit a curb at high speed at the back of a Waffle House, and the airbags deployed. The suspects tried to escape on foot but were quickly apprehended, Yarbrough said.

Authorities in Morrow and Fairburn already have contacted Coweta investigators to interview the suspects about similar robberies, the major said. Also, other AT&T stores are being contacted throughout a wider area to see if similar robberies have occurred.

"We are working closely with local authorities regarding the robbery that occurred this morning at our AT&T dealer store...," said Emily Edmonds, director, AT&T corporate communications. "The authorities were called as soon as the robbery occurred and thankfully no one was harmed."

Edmonds said the store near Thomas Crossroads that was robbed was not a company-owned store, but rather a dealer store that has exclusive relationships with AT&T to sell its mobility products and services.

All three suspects were charged with armed robbery.

The driver was identified as Aric Lovell Owens, 20, of Fairburn. The other two are: Courvoisier L.A. Armour, 22, of Riverdale; and Deangelo Millen, 20, also of Riverdale, according to Yarbrough.

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