BEACHWOOD, Ohio-- Police are searching for the people responsible for a brazen smash-and-grab robbery at a high-end department store in Beachwood. Detectives say the criminals are not amateurs.
Meanwhile a local college student is without a car and was stunned when he first found out what happened.
Chris LaPaglia, 18, of Wickliffe worked all summer to buy a Jeep Cherokee to begin his freshman year at John Carroll University in University Heights.
"I just bought it actually. It's a new car to me; it was about a month or two ago I got it," said LaPaglia, who owned the stolen vehicle.
Around 5:00 a.m. Friday, someone used the vehicle to ram the front glass doors of Saks Fifth Avenue at Beachwood Place.
"The car was stolen from University Heights. We actually had a few other attempted stolen autos in our city, so they were obviously fishing for a stolen auto to use in this crime," said Beachwood police Capt. Gary Haba.
Chris' mother, Christy LaPaglia, said Beachwood police called her as she was headed for work; they were looking for Chris.
"Of course, I panicked. I said 'you know, well he's in college, is everything ok?' and he said, well, we're not sure yet, that depends, does he drive a green Jeep Cherokee?' Of course I'm panicking, 'yes he does; is he ok?' she recalled.
Police said the thieves stole the SUV from John Carroll's Annex lot on Green Road, where Chris said freshmen and sophomores usually park.
Investigators said after plowing through the front of the store, multiple people ran inside and took an undetermined amount of merchandise; police said it probably took less than a minute.
"This wasn't a plot that was hatched an hour before the incident over a couple of drinks or something; these were professionals that had planned this incident, probably for weeks," said Capt. Haba.
"Being a mother, I'm thinking, it could've been a carjacking instead of just a stolen car," said Chris' mother.
Chris said he now has to figure out how to get a new car to get to and from class. He said his Cherokee would cost too much to fix.
"It's crazy; I didn't realize how bad the damages were at the time. I mean, they went all the way into the store," he said.
Officials from Beachwood Place would not comment. Beachwood police said they are following up on some leads.