Midway Police Officer Russell Knox said it was solid police work and some luck that led to his apprehension of three armed-robbery suspects early Wednesday morning.
According to Liberty County Sheriff’s Office Detective Julie Hibbeler, the suspects — later identified as Christian Manuel, 23; Shemar Ramos, 17; and Reginald Brown, 20 — are accused of robbing the El Cheapo service station in the 200 block of South Coastal Highway shortly before 4 a.m.
LCSO Deputy Richard Christian responded to a report of a silent alarm at the store and found a female clerk visibly shaken but not injured, according to the incident report. The clerk told Christian that two men entered the store while she was cleaning a microwave. One of the suspects, who Hibbeler identified as Manuel, reportedly picked up the clerk and demanded the store’s money and a phone.
A second suspect identified by Hibbeler as Ramos — jumped over the counter and attempted to open the cash register Manuel held the clerk. The third suspect, identified as Brown, waited outside in a 2009 Hyundai Sonata.
According to Hibbeler and Christian’s incident report, Manuel is alleged to have threatened the clerk with a machete and forcefully pulled her behind the counter, demanding that she open the register. Once it was open, the suspects took an undisclosed amount of cash and fled from the store.
Knox, who heard a report of a robbery go out over the radio, headed toward the El Cheapo and watched for vehicles driving away from that location. As he passed the Celebrate Beverage store at Isle of Wight and East Oglethorpe Highway, he spotted a vehicle half hidden behind the building. Knox turned around as the vehicle was pulling out of the parking lot. He initiated a traffic stop and questioned the vehicle’s occupants. Their suspicious answers led Knox to believe the men have been involved in the robbery. Not wanting to alarm them, he continued to make small talk until Matthew McKnight arrived.
Before Manuel, who was driving, got out of the car, he told Knox that he was in possession of two machetes. When the officer asked him why, Knox said it was because he lived in the country.
After cuffing the suspects and searching the car, Knox and McKnight found a large amount of cash under the driver’s seat as well as two machetes — a silver one near the console and a black one in the trunk. Another wad of cash also was found crammed between the cushion and the spring of the backseat, where Brown had been sitting.
Manuel, Ramos and Brown have been charged with armed robbery, and Manuel also faces a kidnapping charge.