An observant Swansea resident helped police track down two of several suspects in the middle of a crime spree that spread from St. Louis to the metro-east on Thursday morning.
A total of six people are in custody, police said Thursday afternoon.
It started around 9 a.m., when Swansea Police Chief Steve Johnson said a witness “saw three black males get out of a silver Audi with Missouri license plates. He became suspicious because they were looking into cars.”
The Audi piqued the attention of Fairview Heights officers, who told Swansea officers that a vehicle of the same description was reported taken in an armed robbery earlier in the morning in St. Louis.
“We flooded the area with officers and used our CodeRED alert system to notify citizens to be on the lookout,” Johnson said. The Audi was not found.
A short time later, according to police radio traffic, men who fit the description of the suspects in the Audi were involved in a carjacking in O’Fallon.
According to O’Fallon Police Capt. James Cavins, authorities there received a call about 10:15 a.m. from a concerned person who reported there was an SUV on U.S. 50 pulling a trailer with its doors open.
A few minutes later, police received a second call reporting an SUV with a box trailer stolen from the O’Fallon Schnuck’s grocery store’s parking lot.
O’Fallon police located the SUV and followed it to Lebanon, where officers picked up the pursuit on southbound Illinois 4. As the SUV was steered onto the westbound Interstate 64 ramp, the trailer came off the hitch and crashed.
Cavins said the SUV came back into O’Fallon to Regency Park Drive.
“The stolen SUV crashed into the Jack Schmitt Chevrolet security gate located at 127 Regency Park Drive,” Cavins said. “Two black male occupants fled on foot from the crash and were subsequently taken into custody a short distance away.”
Those occupants are both juveniles aged 15 and 11, Cavins said.
While police were chasing the suspects from the SUV, another officer spotted the stolen Audi traveling west in the 200 block of East Highway 50. He attempted to stop the car, according to Cavins. But it sped away northbound on Lincoln Avenue and the pursuit was broken off for safety reasons.
While the pursuit was underway, schools in O’Fallon District 90 and 203 went into a “soft lockdown” in which students were allowed to move around the schools but no one from outside was allowed into the buildings.
Cavins said that later, East St. Louis police located the Audi involved in the O’Fallon pursuit and also took four black males into custody. The metro-east agencies involved in the pursuits are working with St. Louis detectives in their investigation of the original armed robbery.