Reward offered for armed robbers

Published 2:37 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Local business owners are offering a $6,200 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of suspects in the recent armed robberies in Decatur County.

At a media event held Tuesday morning, local law enforcement officers said offering of the reward is intended to help stop a string of 13 armed robberies which have occurred within the county since June.

“Our major concern is for the clerks working in the stores,” Bainbridge Public Safety Chief Investigator Frank Green said. “We don’t want the clerks, innocent bystanders or officers getting hurt. That’s why we’re soliciting for info that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible.”

The reward money was raised by local businesspeople Sarah Griffin, who co-owns the Junior Mall—robbed Sept. 12—and Edwin McCullers, the former owner of Southern Trading Company. Several other business owners and private citizens also donated money to the reward fund, which is being collected under the name of “Decatur County Citizens Against Crime.”

Sheriff Wiley Griffin said he hoped offering a reward will be successful in generating tips about who might be responsible for the recent robberies, or two unsolved armed robberies since 2001 in which a store clerk was killed by a robber.

“We get a lot of information from people who just want to do the right thing,” Griffin said. “Other people will talk for money, whether it’s to pay bills or they just want the money.”

Deputies, police hunting for leads

To promote the reward’s availability, local law enforcement will be distributing flyers to citizens and businesses alike. The flyers list two phone numbers people may call to leave anonymous tips about the robberies: BPS’ Investigator Green, at (229) 515-0168, or Captain Chip Nix at the Sheriff’s Office, at (229) 400-8007. The flyer states the amount of the reward which will be given out is based on the amount of usable information callers provide.

Of the 13 robberies of businesses in Decatur County during 2009, not including one attempted armed robbery, two have been solved and 11 are unsolved.

BPS and the Sheriff’s Office are also continuing to look into who might have been responsible for two earlier robberies: July 20, 2001 at The Winery on Louise Street, and the Oct. 15, 2008 robbery of the Inland Food Mart on West Shotwell Street. Robbers shot and killed store employees in both of those incidents.

In addition to seeking out citizens’ tips, Sheriff’s deputies and Bainbridge police are working with other area law enforcement agencies in an attempt to capture the men who have committed the recent robberies. Local law enforcement, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and probation and parole officers have spent hundreds of hours investigating the robberies, Major Wendell Cofer of the Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday. Local officers have been holding monthly meetings with their colleagues from other area agencies to discuss the robberies and other crime trends, Cofer said.

Investigators have even been dispatched to other cities and counties to see if robberies which have occurred there were related to the ones here, with no luck so far, Cofer said. Although they aren’t releasing details, investigators believe more than one group may behind the robberies, Green said.

“There’s definitely some similarities,” Sheriff Griffin said. “We aren’t leaving any stone unturned. We know this reward will generate phone calls and we will check out all of them.”