Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Suspect in Suburbia

While walking down the driveway to the mailbox (stop with the snickers) I noticed a couple of cop cars parked a couple houses down. I even saw one of Jacksonville's finest jogging a little so I figgered something big must be goin' down or they're being videotaped for training purposes.

I gathered up my goods and got in the Jeep to run a couple errands. As I slowly drove down the street, careful to go the speed limit since I've yet to close business on the award I earned a couple months ago, I noticed those two cops going into a neighbor's backyard with a German Shepard. They're definitely on the hunt.

I drove the three blocks to the end of my street to discover that every street leading into my little community was blocked off, someone was definitely being hunted. Being in a Jeep, I wasn't too reserved about going off the pavement to go around the obstacle of a cop car. The cop came over to me and told me that I wouldn't be able to get back into the 'hood for a while so I should keep that in mind. Let's see, do I want to miss out on all the action or go do what I needed to get done? Ok, I said. When do you expect to have your business concluded, I asked. About an hour, he guessed. He told me a breaking & entering and rape suspect had fled into my neighborhood and they had him contained within several blocks. Great, I'll go about my way I said and he suggested going to grab a happy hour somewhere. Nice suggestion from a cop, no??

I was gone for little over an hour and saw that the cops had blocked off a part of a neighboring street with yellow tape and lots of cars, so I assume they caught their suspect. Glad I wasn't around... I'd have had a bottle of wine and gone out there cheering them on. Dirty rotten bastard. Oh wait, innocent until proven guilty. Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

This was posted on the local newspaper's website:

4 men held in carjacking, rape

Six-block area of Mandarin sealed off as police capture suspects possibly linked to string of attacks

The Times-Union
Four men suspected in a string of carjackings and a rape were captured Wednesday in a Mandarin neighborhood after Jacksonville police rammed their stolen car off the road and used dogs to chase them down.

The car belonged to a woman found tied to a tree in Mandarin on Wednesday morning after being kidnapped Tuesday in Nassau County and raped, police said.

Police gather around the car used by four men being held in the carjacking of a Nassau County woman. The men were captured after a short chase Wednesday in Mandarin.
DON BURK/The Times-Union

As the short chase unfolded Wednesday afternoon, school buses were diverted from the neighborhood and police called in helicopters and dogs, sealing off a six-block area.

"These guys were very dangerous," said Assistant Chief Roy Henderson of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. "Firearms were involved in these incidents."

Henderson said the suspects, who were being questioned by police Wednesday night and have not yet been charged, may also be linked to eight or more area carjackings that began about two weeks ago.

Police are waiting to interview other possible victims before releasing the names of the suspects.

St. Johns County detective William Werle was in Mandarin on Wednesday afternoon and spotted the Nassau County woman's car, St. Johns County sheriff's spokesman Kevin Kelshaw said. Werle contacted Jacksonville police, who began following the car just after 3 p.m.

Henderson said Jacksonville Sgt. Shawn McCormick rammed the car's rear and slammed it off the road at the intersection of Julington Creek and Agatite roads after a short chase.

One of the men was captured at the car, while the others were found in neighborhood yards with the help of police dogs, Jacksonville police spokesman Ken Jefferson said. The chase and capture took less than an hour.

Nassau County Sheriff's Col. Tommy Seagraves said the woman was driving on the south end of Fletcher Avenue on Tuesday when a car slowed in front of her. When she stopped, a man got out and pointed a gun at her, forcing her into the rear seat. He and three others got into the car, abandoning their vehicle, which Seagraves said had been reported stolen from Duval County. Henderson said the woman, who is in her early 30s, was found tied to a tree sometime after 8 a.m. Wednesday and had not been there long before being rescued.

Henderson said there have been a series of carjackings in recent weeks.

"We've had several around Tinseltown," he said. "St. Johns has had several. Nassau has had one."

St. Johns County investigators want to question the men about carjackings in Fruit Cove and Ponte Vedra Beach, Kelshaw said.

In one St. Johns County case, a Julington Creek Plantation man told police he came home from a restaurant in the Tinseltown area Oct. 31 and was beaten by several men who came into his house. The man said he believed his attackers followed him before entering his house. They stole a 2003 Infiniti. The man was taken to Shands Jacksonville, where he was treated and released.

Wednesday afternoon, as a helicopter circled the area and police sealed off the neighborhood, residents were told to stay inside.

Tracey Brown, who lives in the neighborhood, was at work when her husband called from his job to say he had been told what police were doing in their neighborhood.

"He was like, 'You need to get home now,'" she said, because the couple's 10-year-old son was due home from school.

She and other parents finally found their children after police diverted the buses to a church parking lot and then sent the buses back to various schools. She said she worried about her son and the other students.

"I just knew something had happened to the kids," she said. "There are so many of them."


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