Investigators used surveillance footage from a south Columbus grocery store to nab three men accused of robbing the business Wednesday morning with pistols and an assault rifle, a police detective said Friday.
Police broadcast a description of the getaway vehicle, a 1999 Ford Expedition, shortly after the men fled La Mexicana de Columbus, 3305 Victory Drive, with some $8,000 in cash, investigators said.
An officer spotted the vehicle nearby and pulled over the wife of one of the accused, 28-year-old Michael Johnson of Columbus. She told police she'd just gotten the SUV back from her husband.
The investigation led to Johnson's apartment on North Lumpkin Road, and an officer who approached the door said he heard "what he thought was guns racking," Detective John Bailey said, and called for backup. While officers assembled outside, Johnson walked out, sweating profusely, with a trash can containing receipts from the store and blue plastic gloves.
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The officers searched him and found a large wad of cash in his pocket. He later gave police a full statement. At first, Bailey said, Johnson misled the authorities about how many people were inside the apartment and what weapons officers would find.
Johnson's alleged accomplices, Dimitrius M. Gordon, 24, of Phenix City, and Jamar R. Warner, 22, of Columbus, were inside and taken into custody.
Police said they found an AK-47 in Johnson's bedroom and two handguns elsewhere in the apartment, including a .44-caliber pistol hidden in a shoe box in his daughter's bedroom.
Bailey said Johnson, wearing all black clothing and a ski mask, robbed the clerk of the store at gunpoint. Gordon, described as the "No. 2 suspect," hopped a five-foot counter and ordered seven people preparing food to the floor.
Warner kept watch at the door with an "extremely small chrome pistol in his hand," the detective said.
The three men were jailed on a list of charges, including armed robbery and aggravated assault. They pleaded not guilty during a preliminary hearing and were ordered held without bond in the Muscogee County Jail.