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March 18, 2013

Two arrested in Radio Shack smash and grab

Police say suspects may be part of large-scale crime ring

By Sara Kandel
C & G Staff Writer

Saunders
Travis

Two breaking-and-entering suspects, who were arraigned on four felony charges March 18 in Roseville, could be facing a slew of similar charges from nearby cities.

Two Detroit residents, 27-year-old Christopher Saunders and 22-year-old Lamont Travis, are thought to be part of a large-scale organized theft ring that has been targeting cellphone stores throughout metro Detroit. The two were arrested following a smash-and-grab robbery at a Roseville Radio Shack.

“There has been a host of break-ins in cellphone stores throughout southeast Michigan that are similar in nature,” said Roseville Police Chief James Berlin. “They always break into the safe or pry open the storage cabinets where phones are kept, and they are very choosey with what they will take.

“This time, it was the latest Samsung Galaxy. We believe that the two suspects in custody are working with at least two, but possibly multiple others, as part of a large-scale theft ring that has been operating in the area and targeting cellphone stores.”

The Roseville Police Department is working with other departments in the region to compile a complete case and possibly additional charges against the men. Berlin has been in touch with departments in Novi, Warren, Troy, Detroit and Livonia regarding the case.

At press time, no additional charges have been brought forward and the 39th District Court in Roseville is moving forward with the charges stemming from the March 17 Radio Shack robbery.

Both Saunders and Travis face four felony charges — one count of safe breaking, a possible life felony; one count of breaking and entering with intent, a 10-year felony; one count of possession of burglary tools, a 10-year felony; and one count of resisting a police officer, a two-year felony — for their alleged roles in the incident.

The store’s private alarm company alerted police to the break-in at approximately 7:30 a.m. March 17. Witnesses began calling just moments later — they reported seeing four young males smash out the front door and enter the store.

While police were still en route to Eastgate Shopping Center at Frazho and Gratiot, where the store is located, the four suspects fled the scene. But they didn’t make a clean escape.

“While en route, officers were advised by a witness that the four suspects had fled the scene in two cars, two in a gray Volkswagen and two in a tan Chevy TrailBlazer, and were now traveling eastbound on I-94,” Berlin said.

The responding officers followed in pursuit and were able to catch up to the two vehicles near Seven Mile Road and Van Dyke. With police hot on their tails, the suspect vehicles quickly split up and fled in opposite directions at high speeds.

Police lost track of the TrailBlazer in the shuffle, but were able to follow the Volkswagen for several blocks before the chase was called off for safety reasons, and the suspect vehicle was able to escape into a residential Detroit neighborhood.

The suspects chose the wrong neighborhood, though. Several residents in the neighborhood, near Outer Drive and Sherwood, had witnessed the incident and saw the Volkswagen eventually park in front of a house on Carrie Street.

The witnesses watched as the suspects exited the vehicle and then broke into a home. Several of them reported the crime, and within minutes officers from Roseville and Detroit started pulling up in front of the house.

The suspects fled the home on foot and the police followed. The foot chase lasted for several blocks before police were able to corner the suspects in the locked yard of a local business. The cash drawer, money and 50 smartphones that had been kept in the store’s vault were all found in the Volkswagen, according to police.

At the time of arrest, police said Saunders provided them with a fake name.

“It’s not common, but we do see it. Sometimes people will give us a fake name because they don’t want us to pull up any past offenses when we type their name in, and in this incident I believe that is the reason why,” Berlin said. “Saunders has an extensive criminal record under his real name.”

Judge Marco Santia of the 39th District Court in Roseville set bond at $200,000 cash or surety, no 10 percent, for Saunders, and at $100,000 cash or surety, no 10 percent, for Travis. Both men are being held at Macomb County Jail pending bond, and GPS monitoring devices will be required for both upon release.

Saunders planned to provide his own attorney. Travis requested a court-appointed attorney. The court did not have record of an attorney for either man as of March 18.

The incident is still being investigated by the Roseville Police Department and officers are working to identify and apprehend the two suspects that eluded capture. Witnesses described them both as young black males in hooded sweatshirts. They were last seen driving a newer-model tan TrailBlazer.

Anyone with information on this incident or who can help identify the other suspects involved is urged to contact the Roseville Police Department at (586) 447-4483.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sara Kandel at skandel@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1030.