BATH TOWNSHIP, Ohio (WJW) – Thieves used a stolen car in a daring pre-dawn smash and grab, crashing through the reinforced front of a local gun store.
Video from multiple cameras shows two cars pulling up to the store at about 4:20 a.m. Thursday in Bath Township. At least three individuals wearing masks, gloves and heavy coats appear to try looking into the store and tugging at its door to see if it was locked.
At 4:28 a.m. a Kia Optima, that police say was stolen from a 91-year-old man in Cleveland, was driven through a front window, opening a gaping hole through which the criminals quickly run in, grab what they can and left in a second car only about a minute later.
“You could see where it was definitely planned. It wasn’t a last-minute thing. They parked at the end of the parking lot, out here a couple guys were waiting laying in the grass, so they clearly knew what they were doing,” said Tim Ostrander, the business owner.
“What we do know from the video, is once they did gain entry they did move towards one particular location in the store,” said Bath Twp. Police Chief Vito Sinopoli.
The videos show the trio going directly to and smashing through the glass top of a display case, grabbing handguns out of the case.
An accomplice vaults over the display case and grabs rifles off of the wall.
“They ran past a bunch of stuff went for certain things, and it’s the common stuff that that type of criminal would take,” said Ostrander.
Sinopoli said his office was notified of the alarm and arrived four minutes later, but the thieves were long gone with the stolen car abandoned, still inside the business.
In the video, the thieves are seen rushing into a second waiting car and then leaving northbound on North Cleveland-Massillon Road.
Ostrander said there were no employees in the business at the time, so no one was injured but aside from what was taken, a lot of damage was left behind, including inventory.
“We have a lot of our scopes and optics are damaged we lost a lot of clothing which is minimal. I’m not really concerned about that as much. A lot of products were damaged and shelving and flooring. We just completed our third remodel a couple of months ago so this was all new area that just got destroyed,” said Ostrander
He is working with local police as well as federal agents from the ATF to try and identify the thieves and alert others of the weapons that were taken.
“We have very good friendships with multiple gun stores in the area, that that we email the lists out and send pictures and stuff so they can look out for them as well,” said Ostrander.
Police say the car that was used could have been stolen from Kempton Avenue in Cleveland as recently as Wednesday night.
Sinopoli said when its registration information was entered into their computers, it had not been reported stolen and when contacted by police Thursday morning about the car, its 91-year-old owner told them he had no idea it was missing.
Darkness and thick fog at the time are making it more difficult for authorities to identify the second car that was used as a get-away vehicle.
“Clearly they are people that have no respect for law, or they are the people out there why our industry is under scrutiny constantly. It’s not people like us that are trying to protect our families; it’s people like this that are trying to do it for probably drugs and god knows what else and they do not care what the laws are and it’s unfortunate,” said Ostrander.
He said he intended to look through other security videos to see if they can identify any suspicious individuals in the store prior to Thursday’s robbery.
“I’m pretty sure they had to be in here. We are still reviewing tape. They had to come in here. They were in here at some point because they knew right where they wanted to go,” said Ostrander
Since no one was in the building at the time and there were no injuries, the focus on Thursday was to try and identify the criminals and to find the weapons before they end up in the hands of other dangerous criminals.
“For law enforcement, it’s always a very big concern with guns out there and especially our efforts when responding to a situation like this the safety of our officers and the safety of the community as a whole,” said Sinopoli.
Detectives hope someone might know or have seen something in Cleveland where the car was stolen or in Bath Township from the video that might help identify the suspects.
Anyone who can help is asked to call Bath Twp. Police at (330)666-3736.