A Memphis mall was the scene of a sledgehammer robbery last night, with mall security personnel rushing to get shoppers away from the raiders. Memphis, Tennessee, police report that a local jewelers, and their display of high-end watches, were the target of the robbery that sent shoppers and employees running for the exits.
The daring heist started around 7:39 pm, when five or six suspects entered Reed Jewellers in the Wolfchase Galleria. They approached the display cases holding Rolex watches, and started smashing the cases with sledgehammers. The thieves stole 65 of the watches before disappearing. The watches were stuffed into pillow cases, as shocked shoppers looked on, before the thieves went running for the exits.
All five or six of the robbers were dressed in black from head to toe, in order to prevent their identification from security cameras in the mall. The witnesses that spoke to local media say the mall became a scene of utter chaos as people panicked and tried to flee the situation.
This was apparently a highly organized attack by professional criminals who seemed to know exactly how to get exactly what they wanted. The Memphis bandits are expected to take their cache of stolen Rolexes out-of-state in order to sell the on the black market.
The watches are worth $11,000 a piece retail, giving the robbers a total of around $700,000.
The sledgehammer robbery shocked Memphis shoppers and store owners, who started shutting their doors during the robbery itself, so that they could protect their own customers and employees.
Store clerks, who returned to the store after the daring raid, started doing an inventory check to find out the extent of the robbery. They confirmed the number of watches stolen to the local police as sixty-five.
The mall itself was not locked down until after the robbery. The lockdown lasted several hours, but Memphis police quickly ascertained that the robbers had fled with their watches. The raid lasted only 15 minutes from start to finish, and the raiders escaped through exits close to the jewelry store.
The police have no descriptions of the men but did get intelligence on the getaway cars. One was a red sedan, the other a grey van.
This is likely not the first raid by the gang. There was a near identical robbery in Atlanta, Georgia, last June, where 17 Rolexes were stolen, totaling at least $1 million for the robbers.
There were no reported injuries, and it appears no-one was hurt in the raid or the panic that followed. The store clerks from Reed’s Jewelers apparently ran from the store when the robber started, and so technically the police may not be able to charge the robbers with armed robbery, even if they catch them.
The police originally believed the robbers had both sledgehammers and guns during the raid, but after carefully examining the security footage, decided that the robbers were only carrying the hammers.
If this is the same gang as before, then Memphis may see another sledgehammer robbery in the next months.
By Andrew Willig