Fifth Suspect In Balenciaga Theft Remains At Large - 27 East

Fifth Suspect In Balenciaga Theft Remains At Large

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An East Hampton Village boutique was hit by a

An East Hampton Village boutique was hit by a "smash and grab" team of thieves on Thursday, who made off with $95,000 worth of purses and then led police on a high-speed chase that ended in Manorville when their vehicle got a flat tire.

Balenciaga in East Hampton Village.

Balenciaga in East Hampton Village.

Balenciaga in East Hampton Village.

Balenciaga in East Hampton Village.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday. The fifth subject, a female, escaped after the car the five were riding in suffered a flat tire near Manorville.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday. The fifth subject, a female, escaped after the car the five were riding in suffered a flat tire near Manorville.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

Four of the five suspects in the Balenciaga theft were arraigned in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Friday.

authorMichael Wright on Mar 3, 2022

The employees of East Hampton Village boutique Balenciaga retreated to a basement stock room as a group of thieves stormed into the store and started grabbing merchandise off the shelves, seizing more than $95,000 worth of luxury clutches, purses and handbags in a matter of seconds, and jumped into a waiting getaway car.

An East Hampton Village Police officer pursued the vehicle but broke off the chase in the interests of public safety when the driver accelerated to speeds over 100 mph through the village and into Wainscott and Sagaponack.

But State Police caught up to the thieves on the Long Island Expressway near Manorville, where their vehicle blew a tire, and its occupants fled on foot. Four of the five — all residents of Newark, New Jersey, in their 20s — were arrested; one female suspect escaped and remains at large.

The shock-and-awe shoplifters stormed into the Balenciaga store at 54 Newtown Lane about 1:30 p.m. last Thursday, March 3, apparently signaled by one of the two women whom police say were involved in the effort.

A store employee said a lone woman — wearing a hot pink knit balaclava over her face — came into the store talking into a cellular phone and posing as a shopper, admiring the dozens of brightly colored leather bags and $1,200 sneakers lining the shelves on either side of the store, the employee told police.

Selecting one of the pairs of shoes, she asked the store’s lone salesperson if he could get her size to try on. When the salesman went to the back of the store to ask the stockroom manager to bring up the requested model and size, the woman said something into the phone. Moments later, four more people rushed into the store and started grabbing bags off the shelves and out of the window display.

The two employees retreated to the storage room and closed the door, preparing to make a getaway out a rear door should the thieves threaten them. When they heard silence from the storefront, the salesperson ran out of the store and flagged down a passing East Hampton Village Police officer to report the larceny that had just occurred.

An employee of a store on the other side of Newtown Lane, who asked not to be identified, said he saw the whole event unfold.

The thieves’ getaway vehicle was parked, unattended, in the alleyway between the Balenciaga building and the former Babette’s building, he said. When the five thieves came dashing out, their arms brimming with neon leather — dropping several of the bags as they ran — the black Dodge Durango bolted across Newtown Lane and into the Reutershan Parking Lot.

The vehicle had completely tinted windows, no front license plate and only a paper tag on the back, the witness said.

The village officer whom the Balenciaga employee flagged down put out an alert on the radio, and another Village Police patrol car spotted the vehicle just moments later. When the officer tried to pull it over, the driver sped away and began swerving between the oncoming traffic lane and the road shoulder to get around vehicles in its way.

The officer initially gave chase, but broke off the pursuit so as not to create an unsafe situation when the fleeing vehicle accelerated to over 100 mph.

“We have to weigh the nature of the crime and the threat to the public on whether to continue a pursuit,” Village Police Lieutenant Jeffrey Erickson said on the evening of the theft. “At that time of day, with all the cars on the road, and they were traveling at very high speed, it just becomes a public safety issue.”

Village Police notified other departments to the west to be on the lookout for the vehicle, and a State Trooper intercepted the speeding Durango on Sunrise Highway as it approached the Manorville exit and gave chase as it headed for the Long Island Expressway. That officer also broke off his pursuit when the reckless driving of the getaway vehicle became hazardous to others.

But the fleeing vehicle blew a tire shortly after getting onto the expressway and pulled over, the five occupants bailing out of the car and fleeing on foot into the woods.

State Troopers, Suffolk County Police and East Hampton Village Police joined in the search of the wooded lots and fields, with help from a Suffolk County Police Department helicopter and K-9 units called in to help with the search. One was soon caught by a Trooper, another was spotted by the helicopter, and two others were tracked down by the K-9 units, police said.

The fifth suspect, a woman, eluded capture and has yet to be identified, according to Erickson.

The four arrested were identified by police as Ali Abul Harris, 28, Jamal Revelt Johns, 25, Wazir Rodgers, 24, and Baseemah Tamika Davis, 34, all of New Jersey. They were arraigned on Friday morning by East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana.

All four had prior criminal records, Rana noted, including “very recent criminal activity” by Davis — the New York Post reported this week that she was arrested for possession of stolen property in Nassau County on January 20 — and at least two prior felony convictions for Johns.

The four were all charged with grand larceny in the second degree, felonies, in East Hampton and were to face charges of possession of stolen merchandise from State Police. A Suffolk County grand jury was reviewing the case on Monday and Tuesday and was expected to hand up charges for felony indictments on Wednesday.

Because the crimes are not violent offenses, three of the four were to be released after their arraignments, but Rana ordered one, Johns, held at the Suffolk County Jail in Riverside, as dictated by state penal law, because of his multiple prior felony convictions.

The young man protested the order in court. “I’ve got to stay?” he asked incredulously, slumping his shoulders and turning away from the judge in frustration. He said that he has a 2-year-old at home.

The three men said they all have full-time jobs, working in the stockroom of grocery stores in the Newark region, earning between $500 and $600 per week. Davis said she is unemployed.

East Hampton Village Mayor Jerry Larsen said this week that he was unsettled by the aggressive and brazen methods employed by the thieves and asked Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney’s office to prosecute the perpetrators to the fullest extent possible, in the hope of sending a deterrent message.

He said he was proud of the way the village’s police officers handled the situation and said the village department showed why crimes are rare in the village.

“Our officers where right there — they didn’t even have to call 911 — and we were on them, in pursuit before they even got to the traffic light at Town Pond,” said the mayor, a former chief of the village’s police department. “We do foot patrols, we have officers on bicycles. Most of our shops, they don’t have security devices on their goods or security guards because we have a very safe village.”

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