AIKEN -- Two of three juveniles wanted in a Saturday armed robbery of a Beech Island convenience store are believed to have hit the same location again this morning, according to police.
The case has authorities considering whether there's a gang connection, and it's even prompted a nickname for the youngsters by Aiken County sheriff's Capt. Troy Elwell -- the munchkin gang.
We see juvenile crime all the time, but not to this extent, Capt. Elwell said. This is something new for us.
Capt. Elwell said that today two juveniles, believed to be as young as 15, entered the Manis Mart on Sand Bar Ferry Road at 9:17 a.m. with someone described as a young adult with a deeper voice.
Capt. Elwell said that one of the robbers had a handgun and another had a shotgun. He said they fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money and are believed to have gotten into a getaway car about a quarter mile from the store.
Saturday's robbery, Capt. Elwell said, had a very small kid in it, 10 to 12 is the way we've described him. That individual was not involved in this one (today).
The same location was also robbed in March, but that case was believed to be connected to other suspects.
Capt. Elwell said authorities are looking into whether this is gang-related, especially today's incident being that a young adult was involved. He said police will investigate whether it could be a gang initiation or whether the youngsters are working for a gang that might think children won't do hard time if caught.
In the first robbery, an incident report stated that $6,500 was taken.
You can be assured that the community that these individuals are from, that the word on the street is out on how much money they are taking from this store, he said. So that's possibly another reason they're going to the same location over and over.
Jeff Lenard , a spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, said convenience stores can help their safety by keeping money out of sight and well protected. He said that can mean either making extra bank deposits through the day or having a drop safe that has a timed release and can't be opened easily or quickly for a robber.
The idea is to make your store where the money isn't, he said.
Mr. Lenard also said store owners should make sure to keep windows clear of signs or other obstructions, making it easier for the public to see inside if a robbery is occurring, which could deter the crime.