Sheriff: Incident like Rookery purse snatching rare, says people should always be vigilant

Telegraph staffFebruary 17, 2014 

While a crime like the purse snatching at the Rookery in downtown Macon on Sunday night is “a relatively rare occurrence,” the Bibb County sheriff said people should “always be vigilant” of their surroundings.

“If something does happen,” David Davis added, “follow the lead of the victims from (Sunday) night. Be a good witness.”

He said the victims helped deputies make three arrests in the case by providing good descriptions of the suspects and the vehicle they were riding in.

Sunday about 7 p.m., a 44-year-old woman was approached in the Rookery’s outside dining area by two men asking her and her husband for a cigarette lighter, according to a sheriff’s news release. The couple told the two men they didn’t have a lighter, and the suspects left.

The men returned later and snatched the woman’s purse, according to the release. They ran and got into a white Buick Roadmaster and fled.

The victim’s husband later spotted the Buick at a Forsyth Street convenience store and was able to get a tag number, according to the release. He informed the sheriff’s office and also told authorities that the vehicle was traveling west on Vineville Avenue.

Deputies spotted the vehicle and three suspects on Charter Lane at Rivoli Drive and stopped the car. As the deputies were taking the men into custody, the driver began fighting with a deputy and ran from the scene, according to the release. He was captured a short time later in a wooded area off Rivoli Drive.

The driver was identified as 22-year-old Fred James Harris of Macon. He was charged with obstruction of a law enforcement officer and possession of marijuana. The passengers were identified as 21-year-old Shamond Rayson Rozier of Macon and 21-year-old Terrance Lamont James of Macon. Rozier was charged with robbery and violation of probation. James was charged with robbery.

‘I feel pretty safe’

One Rookery customer visiting from Atlanta on Sunday said his night was ruined after he witnessed the purse snatching, said Andy Johnson, Rookery assistant manager.

“I apologized,” Johnson said Monday afternoon.

The customer suggested the restaurant should add security guards or put up a sign alerting people to watch their valuables.

Johnson said he would worry that a sign or guards would give people the wrong impression of downtown Macon. He said the snatching is the first incident he knows of outside the Rookery in the year he has worked there.

“In any downtown area, you’re going to be susceptible to things happening,” Johnson said. “I feel pretty safe.”

He said the Rookery has cameras pointed at its outside seating area in the event something does happen.

Down Cherry Street from the Rookery, Roger Ruiz has run Doughboy Pizza about a year and a half.

“Stay where it’s lit,” said Ruiz, who has lived in Macon about eight years. “Don’t walk down alleys, and walk with a group.”

Ruiz said he feels safe and has not had any major incidents at his restaurant apart from somebody stealing his tip jar about a year ago.

Ruiz said he has noticed a stronger law enforcement presence downtown since the Macon Police Department and sheriff’s office merged.

“That’s by design,” the sheriff said. Davis said downtown Macon has its own cadre of officers assigned to it. “We are using the resources and staffing power of a merged agency to put more people downtown,” Davis said.

To contact writer Andres David Lopez, call 744-4382. To contact writer Ben Yoder, call 744-4326.

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