A trio of young men came into a jewelry store in The Mall in Columbia and left with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise.
One had a semi-automatic handgun. Another had a handgun in his waistband. The third had a knife.
They were caught on camera, surveillance footage capturing their faces and clothing. Those photographs were released to the public in the hopes that someone might know more about who the men were.
Police were given their names two days after the robbery.
According to the Howard County Police Department, they are three men from Baltimore: Deontaye Derrick Harvey, Gary Donnell Braxton Jr. and Aaron Pratt.
Investigators believe they might be connected with other similar robberies in the region.
And, one newspaper reported that this robbery might be connected with a murder that happened the day after.
Robbery in Mall 'A Very Rare Incident'
It wasn’t just an armed robbery at a jewelry store. It was an armed robbery at a jewelry store in a busy mall on a weekday afternoon.
“This was a very rare incident,” said Katie Essing, senior general manager for General Growth Properties, which owns .
The details of the robbery are described in charging documents filed in Howard County District Court.
Police were called to Edward Arthur Jewelers at about 12:47 p.m. on Wednesday, March 30. An employee told arriving officers that the store had just been robbed by three men, that one of the men had pulled out a handgun, told him to open a locked display case full of men’s Rolex watches and ordered him to help put the watches into a bag.
The man with the semiautomatic handgun told the employee to hurry up or he’d shoot him in the foot, police said.
After the three men left, the Edward Arthur employees took an inventory of what was gone. The total: approximately $300,000 worth of merchandise.
Police say the men left the mall through the nearby Macy’s department store, exited into the parking lot and into a black 2003 Mitsubishi Diamante. Mall security guards were watching, taking note of the vehicle and its license plates.
Investigators connected the Mitsubishi Diamante to a slain 25-year-old man named Derek Jones, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Jones had been questioned by police the day after the Columbia robbery and then was shot and killed just hours later, The Sun reported.
As police worked to track down the suspects, they asked the public for help, releasing photos of the three men captured on the surveillance cameras and offering a $5,000 reward.
Names for the Faces, Arrests for the Suspects
One day after police released those pictures – two days after the robbery – investigators received calls that would lead to the suspects’ arrests.
The man in a black and red Cincinnati Reds cap was Gary Donnell Braxton Jr., the caller told police, according to charging documents. Police pulled Braxton up in their computer system. He’d been arrested before – online court records, for example, show two arrests for trespassing in cases that prosecutors dropped.
Booking photographs in those cases confirmed that Gary Donnell Braxton Jr. was the man seen on the surveillance footage, police said.
Two callers told police that the man in a Grizzlies cap and a green plaid shirt was Deontaye Derrick Harvey, according to charging documents. He, too, was found in the police computer system. Online court records show that at the time of the robbery Harvey was on probation after being found guilty on drug distribution charges.
Past booking photographs confirmed that the man on the surveillance footage was Harvey, police said.
One caller told police that the man in the black and white Chicago Bulls cap was Aaron Pratt, who also went by “Bruce.” Another caller told police that the man was “Bruce,” according to charging documents.
Howard County police, working with the Baltimore City Police Department, said they were able to find pictures of Pratt. Court records show an arrest on drug distribution charges just a few weeks before the Columbia robbery.
Past booking photographs confirmed that the man on the surveillance footage was Pratt, police said.
Police arrested Pratt, 19, of 2008 Wylie Ave. in Baltimore; Harvey, 20, of 1112 N. Parrish St. in Baltimore; and Braxton, 25, of 703 Lexington St. in Baltimore.
All three are facing charges of armed robbery, robbery, first- and second-degree assault, use of a handgun to commit a felony, reckless endangerment and theft, according to Howard County police.
Braxton is also facing numerous counts of robbery and assault, among other charges, for a March 7 incident in Anne Arundel County, according to online court records.
Police investigating whether the suspects in the robbery at The Mall in Columbia were connected with similar cases in the region told The Sun of two particular cases – an armed robbery at Elite Gold & Diamond in September at Baltimore’s Mondawmin Mall in which more than $100,000 in watches were taken and a robbery at Liljenquist & Beckstead Jewelers on March 7 at Westfield Annapolis Mall in which watches were taken.
“Each [robbery] occurred in mid- to late afternoon, and the robbers were described as being in their early to mid-20s and wearing baseball caps,” The Sun reported.