FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — Dramatic moments during holiday shopping at the CoolSprings Galleria Saturday night were caught on camera as Franklin police confronted suspects armed with sledgehammers who were smashing glass cases as employees and customers looked on.
Witnesses left in disbelief, some filming the ordeal as it unfolded. Some of the video shows the suspects violently smashing glass cases and stuffing bags with jewelry.
A man, who didn’t want to be identified, told News 2 his teenage daughter was in the store, “A half a dozen people or so ran in with pepper spray and ski masks and sledgehammers and they just started smashing the glass and grabbing whatever they could and putting it in bags.”
Police body camera footage showed Franklin officers weren’t far behind the suspects. Police were already contacted by an employee of a nearby jewelry store for one of the suspects being suspicious.
“Four of those five men jumped out of that van. All had masks on and hoodies, sunglasses, everything. They were just completely covered up and ran into that store and immediately with a sledgehammer smashing jewelry cases,” said Lieutenant Charles Warner with the Franklin Police Department.
Undercover officers followed the suspect’s van and witnessed four masked men run into JCPenney. Police say an employee was pepper-sprayed during the incident while another suspect fought an undercover officer.
“It’s a dramatic example of the everyday work that our officers are subject to every day,” said Lt. Warner.
The struggle was captured on video inside the mall as police say the suspect tried to grab the officer’s gun in the scuffle. That suspect was arrested, as well as, the driver of the getaway van, while police say the three other men took off.
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A mass search with the help of K-9 officers from Brentwood and Williamson County landed two more men in custody in nearby parking lots. However, police say one suspect was able to get away.
The witness’s father recounted his daughter’s call to him minutes after the robbery. “She called me hysterically crying that JCPenney had just been robbed in the jewelry department. She said it was absolutely terrifying.”
The father raced to the store and witnessed the aftermath.
“Mannequins were tipped over several displays just all the items were just like it literally looked like a bomb had gone off in there,” he explained.
Franklin police arrested 35-year-old Keisean Elliott, 29-year-old Marcanzo Banks, 29-year-old Dunterious Traylor, and 33-year-old Quintaurus Harris.
Franklin police said there have been at least five similar incidents across Tennessee and Arkansas, over the past several weeks.
“We are working to determine what ties they have, to up to five others within two different states that occurred all within the last month or so. The total of all those thefts is over 1.5 million dollars,” Lt. Warner said.
In August, Harris was arrested in Memphis, accused of stealing millions in jewelry in connection with two thefts from Macy’s there.
“I don’t know how this guy is out walking the streets if he committed a violent crime before, how is he not still in jail? That scares me that somebody can be, do something like this and be on the streets a couple months later doing the exact same thing,” the father questioned.
Detectives in Franklin said they are working with investigators from multiple agencies to determine if the suspects arrested are connected to other incidents, including a smash-and-grab jewelry robbery last month at the CoolSprings Galleria Macy’s.
“The message we want to send to criminals is not in our mall. It’s the name of the operation and the fact is, if you come to Franklin looking for trouble, we’re going to find you,” Lt. Warner said.
News 2 reached out to the management of the mall for a comment but has not yet heard back as of the publishing of this article.