Sheriff: 'Lazy' suspects in string of armed robberies were easy to find because of cigar thefts

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The five men sought by Richland County deputies following four armed robberies over the course of three days last week are in custody.

The department said 21-year-old Javari Ward, 19-year-old Javon Sims, 18-year-old Izaha Holmes, 19-year-old Tavis Bethel and 19-year-old Alan Keondre' Wright face armed robbery and kidnapping charges.

The first robbery took place on March 11 around 11:40 p.m., when deputies responded to an armed robbery at the Corner Pantry at 91 Clemson Road. The suspects entered the store, presented a handgun and stole money and cigars.

About an hour later, deputies were dispatched to an armed robbery at a BP gas station in the 8400 block of Two Notch Road. During that incident, the suspects encountered the store clerk outside, presented a gun, forced him inside and stole money and cigars.

Then, on March 12 at around 11:13 p.m., deputies responded to an armed robbery at the Circle K on Longtown Road. The suspects entered the store, presented a gun and stole money and cigars.

On March 13 at 5 p.m., deputies responded to an armed robbery at Q Computer Solutions in the 8800 block of Two Notch Road. During that robbery, the suspects forced the employees into a back room and stole money and laptops.

Sheriff Leon Lott said the robberies are not drug or gang related. He also said the suspects wore the same clothing during each of the robberies, leading investigators to believe they were connected.

"We knew they weren't going to stop," Lott said. "They hit three nights in a row and they would not have stopped without the work our investigators and the community to get them off the streets."

Lott also described all five men as "lazy" during Wednesday's press conference.

"These are lazy people who would not go get a job who decided the easiest way to get money was to go out here and rob people," Lott said.

During the robberies, Lott said the suspects made away with anywhere from $80 to $400, as well as a box of cigars at each location.

"When you look at that split up among these five people, that's not a whole lot of profit for going out here and throwing your life away," Lott said.

The department said the five suspects were arrested at various times throughout the last week and one handgun was recovered during the apprehensions.

A woman named Ashley is an employee at a business near the Q Computer Solutions on Two Notch Road that was robbed last Tuesday by the suspects. She said she is fearful every time she walks out the door at the end of her shift.

"Every night we don't know if we're going to get robbed, even during the day we're constantly looking out of our windows, checking our cameras because we don't know what's going to happen," she said.

She said the problem along that stretch of Two Notch has gotten worse and no longer feels safe walking out to her car at night.

"One night we were leaving and it was a little later, around midnight and we were walking out and there was a group of three men in our parking lot and we didn't even know what to do," she said.

Ashley said she recently found out business owners can call the Richland County Sheriff's Department to have a deputy escort them to their vehicle if they are feeling unsafe. It's something she plans to do moving forward.

"I'd rather do that than put myself in a bad situation," she said.

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