Fultondale police have arrested two men and charged them with first-degree armed robbery in all of the armed robberies in the last three months within the city limits.
Torri Johnson, 35, was arrested on Friday about an hour after he allegedly robbed the O’Reilley’s auto parts store in Fultondale. According to police, Johnson and his partner, Reginald Andre Mitchell, 29, entered the store at about 8 p.m. and forced two workers into a back room with a gun, where they told the employees to open the safe. The suspects allegedly stole more than $3,000 in cash, checks and rolled coins.
About an hour later, Johnson, no longer accompanied by Mitchell, was pulled over by a patrol car for a traffic violation. When the patrol officer approached the car and questioned Johnson, he allegedly admitted to using heroine.
“There’s not been any blood work done, but he was messed up,” said Rogers. Johnson has been charged with driving under the
influence of narcotics. Upon searching Johnson’s person, the patrol officer found several thousand dollars stuffed into one of his pockets. A search of the vehicle resulted in the recovery of two cell phones, still in their boxes, that were later verified as stolen during the Fultondale AT&T Planet store robbery in July. Rogers said Johnson claimed he bought the property knowing it was stolen. Johnson has also been charged with receiving stolen property.
“The patrol unit did a great job. They’re our backbone,” said Rogers. “This wasn’t just the detectives doing their investigation... If it hadn’t been for the alertness of the patrol division, we wouldn’t have made the arrest.”
On Monday, Johnson’s girlfriend, accompanied by Mitchell, went to the Birmingham police station to file a missing persons’ report on Johnson, according to Rogers. He said police officers realized Mitchell matched the description of one of one of the armed robbery suspects, and arrested him at the station.
Police say it is possible the two men were committing the robberies to fund a drug habit. “It’s the monkey on their backs. One of them said he had a $125-a-day habit,” said Rogers. “Or, it could just be greed. They think, if it works once, it works twice. And if it works twice, it’ll work again and again. They got caught up in their greed.”
Rogers said all of the recent robberies were done in basically the same way.
“They didn’t go in with blazing guns. They were quiet and calm,” he said. “They’d pull their guns, take the guys to the back and do the dirty deed.” According to police, most of the robberies went completely unnoticed by neighboring businesses.
Rogers said the suspects would come into the store at night after closing time or after all the customers would leave (with the exception of the AT&T Planet robbery, which occurred in broad daylight), wearing bandannas and armed with at least one handgun.
The manager of the AT&T planet store said the men who robbed him seemed nervous and were armed with both semiautomatic pistols and revolvers.
The two men were charged with first-degree armed robbery for five Fultondale locations: Chili’s, Hampton Inn, O’Charley’s, AT&T Planet and O’Reilley’s.
Gardendale Police Chief Mike Walker said the two suspects are being investigated to determine if they are involved in the armed robberies at Shoney’s, Chick-Fil-A and Sonic Drive-In.
Birmingham and Trussville police departments are also investigating the two men in similar armed robberies in their cities. Rogers said more charges are expected. Johnson’s bonds total $315,000, and Mitchell's total $60,000.