March 22, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---An early morning robbery sent Richmond County investigators on a search. Now both suspects are behind bars, and the community says they feel a little safer.
It all started as a robbery at the PJ's convenience store on Skinner Mill Road, then turned into something much bigger for Richmond County investigators.
Jong Nathanson, the owner of PJ's, says she was in shock after two robbers wearing masks gagged her and dragged her through her own store.
"They grab me and take me to side of the building, push me on the floor and put a sock on my mouth, then they want me to go inside to open safe," she said.
She says after the two suspects forced her inside, they hit her in the back of the head, forced her onto the floor behind the counter and told her they were going to shoot her.
"I was nervous," she said. "It was a life and death situation...no joke."
Investigators say 23-year-old Andre Johnson and an unidentified 16-year-old stole cash out of the safe along with several other items.
The suspects left on a stolen golf cart.
An hour later, several witnesses told deputies where the suspects lived: an apartment at Merrick Place.
"We saw them leaving the apartment and conducted a traffic stop," said Sgt. Richard Roundtree. "They tried to flee the vehicle and we stopped them and took the two into custody."
Investigators found a large amount of cash not only in their car but also inside their apartment.
They also found packs of cigars, rolls of coins, and a BB gun that looks like a high powered assault weapon.
Now Jong says even though she doesn't feel safe anymore working at her store, she's happy her robbers are now behind bars.
"I feel good," she said. "I feel police protect me. It's good, it's good."
Deputies also arrested 24-year-old Melissa Johnson. They say she is not related to Andre Johnson, but the three of them, including the 16-year-old, lived in the same apartment at Merrick Place.
All three are being charged with robbery by force and kidnapping. Investigators say there could be additional charges in the future.
Investigators say information from a group of middle schoolers who saw the suspects led to the arrests.
They say the witnesses were able to identify the two men because the teenagers saw them in the area yesterday, possibly to check out the store. Their descriptions of the robbers led authorities right to the source of the crime.
Melissa Johnson's three-year-old twin girls were taken into custody by DFACS.