EAST ST. LOUIS — Police Chief Michael Floore said officials believe the East St. Louis AutoZone robbery, in which thieves wearing hoodies and bandanas got away with between $400 and $500, and the robbery at Family Dollar in Belleville may be related.
"We are reviewing surveillance videos and continue to investigate the crimes," Floore said.
Lillie Butler, 65, said she was about 100 feet from her home on Jan. 24 at a beauty supply store located at 5104 State St.
She said she, the owner, and her daughter were the only ones in the store. The owner waited on Butler while her daughter was doing something on her computer.
"She was complaining about not making some money," said Butler, who is also president of Dayton/Wedgewood organization. "She knew I am a former Precinct 18 committeeman. We were talking about TIF and how its money is used. A young man came into the store shivering. He was not wearing a coat and was holding one wrinkled dollar bill. He told her he wanted to buy some hair glue."
After a brief conversation in the back with the owner, he left. Within a matter of seconds of his leaving, two men wearing dark gray bandanas on their face and black hoodies, carrying guns came into the store, Butler said.
"One came straight to me and told me to give him my rings. I was trying to get the rings off and he told me to lay down on the floor. I did what he told me to. He was still pointing the gun at me when he took my rings," Butler said. "They were wearing black hoodies, blue jeans and dark gray bandanas with a white line in them across their faces."
On their way-out of the store, they asked the owner where the white T-shirts were, Butler said.
"I believe they took some of them before they left, but I couldn't see because I was on the floor," she said.
Butler said the store owner told her that the gunmen took $120 and small jar containing church donations. There was jewelry and other stuff, including the laptop that her daughter was using.
Butler said the owner didn't want her to call the police because she didn't want anyone to know that her store had been robbed.
However, Butler called the police.
Butler said she was upset because the store owner didn't have security cameras, outdoor lighting or a security guard on duty.
She said she is also upset that police and city officials acted like they didn't know anything about her terrifying ordeal when she went to City Hall the following day.
"I lost between $5,000 to $6,000 in rings. I could have lost my life. They acted like they didn't know anything about it," Butler said.