WATCH: Suspects in custody after smash-and-grab JCPenney robbery
FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WSMV) – Alleged thieves that could be involved in stealing more than $1.5 million from malls across Tennessee and Arkansas were arrested Sunday night after an armed robbery at Cool Springs Galleria in Franklin.
Shortly before 8 p.m. Sunday, Franklin police officers responded to a robbery in progress. An employee at Jared Jewelers in the Thoroughbred Village Shopping Center called after seeing one of the suspects enter the store wearing a mask, hat, and sunglasses, police said.
Nearby undercover officers spotted and followed that suspect leaving the area in a van with other suspects. Minutes later, police say the van pulled into the fire lane in front of JCPenney at the CoolSprings Galleria.
Four suspects immediately went inside and started smashing glass cases with hammers to steal diamond jewelry. One suspect pepper sprayed an employee during the incident. Another suspect fought an officer and tried to grab his gun, according to police.
Additional officers poured into the area and the suspects were arrested.
Quintaurus Harris, 33, Dunterious Traylor, 29, Keisean Elliot, 35, and Marcanzo Banks, are charged with aggravated robbery, felony vandalism and evading arrest. Traylor is also charged with assault on a first responder.
There have been at least five similar incidents across Tennessee and Arkansas over the past few weeks with a combined loss of $1.5 million, police said. Police are working with investigators from multiple agencies to determine if the suspects arrested in Franklin are responsible for other incidents, including a smash-and-grab robbery at the Cool Springs Galleria Macy’s on Nov. 4.
It started just like any other Saturday. Dozens of customers were browsing through aisles at the CoolSprings JCPenney when they said glass began to shatter.
“We were in the striking distance I mean they pulled out their hammers right in the middle of crowded isles in the store,” a customer said.
A woman who asked us not to share her name or show her face says she was just inches away when two men pulled out slug hammers and started breaking into jewelry display cases.
“Lots of us were running with our small children to try and get away because we didn’t know if they had guns or not, we only saw hammers and we didn’t know how many people there were,” the customer said.
In this video you see undercover Franklin police officers run into the store after getting a tip about suspicious men and watching them jump out of a van leaving others waiting to drive off.
Seconds later you see them tasing and tackling the two men.
“As soon as we saw the men pull out the hammers and start swinging at people my first instinct was to run,” the customer said.
After struggling to restrain the two men officers arrested both along with two other men waiting in the van outside.
“I was terrified even now knowing what happened it almost feels surreal,” the customer said.
Police say the four men arrested may also be linked to a series of robberies in other counties. All 4 men are now being charged with aggravated robbery, felony vandalism and evading arrest.
“Nobody suspected anything until they started swinging,” the customer said.
Some shoppers are now hoping that more police officers will be out monitoring the mall from now on.
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