Police look for link in phone store break-ins

jmcfadden@heraldonline.comJuly 11, 2013 

Security video caught two gloved men wearing backpacks and makeshift masks throwing pieces of concrete through the front door of a Rock Hill cellphone store early Thursday. They fled moments later without taking any money or merchandise, police say.

Now, three police departments are working together to determine if the same men might have broken into cellphone stores in Fort Mill, Tega Cay and Lake Wylie within hours of each other, using rocks and bricks to shatter the glass front doors.

In Rock Hill, police say it took only one minute for two suspects to walk through the Sprint store on Crown Pointe Lane, off Dave Lyle Boulevard, at about 1:30 a.m., scope the inventory and run out toward a nearby apartment complex.

Police found broken glass at the main entrance, the cabinets beneath a cellphone rack partially opened and a large piece of concrete toward the back of the store, the report states.

A neighbor who lives near the store told police he heard a loud bang before someone yelled “let’s get ... out of here,” the report states. He looked out the window and saw “shadowy figures” running from the store toward Pepper Ridge apartments on Springsteen Road.

Police watched surveillance video of the suspects flinging a large piece of concrete at a window next to the main door, causing about $500 in damage, police said.

The concrete slab broke one of the two glass panes, the report states. After several attempts to break the second glass pane, the suspects threw the concrete at the main door, shattering it.

The two men walked into the store and looked around before they ran out again and toward the nearby apartment complex, the report states. Both men carried backpacks and their heads were covered with “makeshift masks,” according to police.

The store employee was unable to give police a copy of the video at the time of the report.

Thursday morning, police in Tega Cay were investigating a similar break-in at the T-Mobile store on S.C. 160, where it appears someone threw a rock through the front door and went inside at about 2 a.m., said Lt. Ron Dills with the Tega Cay Police Department.

“We were there in less than three minutes,” said Dills, adding that store employees were still working to inventory supplies.

The store was unable to capture the suspects on camera, so police are hoping to use cameras from the nearby Kangaroo gas station to obtain a suspect description.

“Right now, we’ve got nothing,” Dills said Thursday morning. “In situations like this, you want to put your mind in the minds of the bad guys.”

Those “bad guys” might be the same ones who, minutes later, threw a rock at the front door of the Sprint store on S.C. 160 in Fort Mill, according to a York County Sheriff’s Office report. The store’s manager met with deputies and told police two cellphones, collectively worth $1,300, were taken from the front display.

Deputies found three shell casings in the back room and the master lock had been shot, the report states. The storage vault, which was bolted to the floor, was tipped over. Store video was not available at the time of the report.

Less than two hours later, deputies were sent to a Verizon Wireless store on S.C. 274 near Lake Wylie, according to another report. When police arrived, they found the glass front door smashed and a brick on the floor inside. Several cabinets had been pried and locks were damaged. The suspects kicked open a back storage door and took $180 cash from an open cash register in the front office.

The store was unable to provide police with security video because it is recorded at the corporate office. Cameras from an adjacent Bi-Lo captured a small silver compact car driving into the fire lane at the time the store’s alarms went off, the report states.

Police believe that the incidents are “possibly connected” because the suspects used the same items to break into the stores, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Trent Faris.

Jonathan McFadden •  803-329-4082

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