Shoplifting suspects stored up lacy loot; bras, panties found in hotel room
Drawer-loads of panties. A bonanza of bras. Gallons of perfume. All made up the shopping list for a brazen trio who applied their five-finger discount at stores around the Lowcountry, police said.
Three women left Miami with a mission — to steal as much as they could on a larceny-laced roadtrip to Charleston, police said.
Their shoplifting spree ended abruptly Wednesday after a desperate attempt to elude police who chased them after the trio nearly ran over a police officer trying to question them in Mount Pleasant, authorities said.
They now face multiple charges in at least two towns, and have received their own blue light special that has earned them a stay at the Charleston County jail.
Lachavia Brownlee, 22; Shaneah Walker, 23; and Kelvinisha Green, 20, drove to Charleston and checked into the Creekside Lands Inn on Savannah Highway, according to police. They checked into room No. 114 on Tuesday, a little after midnight, according to hotel owner Sam Patel.
On Wednesday, dozens of investigators made their way into that same hotel room and found the fruits of the trio’s shopping mission, including $15,000 worth of stolen merchandise, according to police. Among other things, police seized at least 675 pairs of panties, 45 boxes of perfume and assorted children’s clothing.
Police have not said whether all those items were from the Lowcountry thefts, and investigators have not indicated what the thieves planned to do with their loot.
Brownlee, Walker and Green were busy Wednesday, police said. Walker and Brownlee told police they started at the Citadel Mall, according to an incident report.
Charleston police are investigating a shoplifting report that occurred at about 11:30 a.m. at the mall’s Victoria’s Secret, in which 20 bras were stolen. Three females matching a similar description to the trio were spotted in the store, but investigators have not yet positively identified Brownlee, Walker and Green as the culprits, said spokesman Charles Francis.
Brownlee, Walker and Green then drove to Northwoods Mall at around 1 p.m., police said. As one of the suspects distracted the assistant manager, the other two loaded up bags with panties at a Victoria’s Secret there, according to an incident report.
By the time employees realized they had been swindled, the trio was gone, police said.
About an hour later, the three suspects popped up in Mount Pleasant’s Town Centre and didn’t waste any time before plucking items from at least four stores, including perfume and more panties from a Victoria’s Secret, police said.
But before the suspects could get away, a Mount Pleasant police officer, who regularly patrols the area, stopped them after realizing they matched the description of reported thieves at Towne Centre, police said.
Edward Spear, 68, of Mount Pleasant, a pretzel vendor, said he saw the three women run off and get in a car, which was a rental. Spear watched as the police officer tried to stop the driver, later identified as Brownlee, as the car shot backward. The car then accelerated forward and dragged the officer about 30 feet along the pavement, a police affidavit stated.
“I was really shocked,” Spear said.
Green shifted gears from the passenger seat while the officer held Brownlee’s arms, and Walker yelled for them to keep going from the back seat, according to police affidavits.
The officer was nearly run over, and she received injuries to her forehead and knee and several scrapes and bruises, according to the affidavit. Police identified the officer as Pfc. Michelle Johnson.
The trio raced out of Mount Pleasant and police trailed them; they eventually drove onto Interstate 26 and into North Charleston. At one point Brownlee was driving 110 mph on the interstate, an incident report stated.
One of the suspects later told police Brownlee said, “I am not going to jail. I’m not going to stop,” during the chase, according to the affidavit.
Brownlee made it about 20 miles away before stop sticks destroyed the car’s tires and she crashed into a detached garage at a home on Morningside Drive.
Brownlee has been charged with first-degree assault and battery, reckless driving, leaving the scene, no driver’s license and shoplifting. Green and Walker were charged with shoplifting and first-degree assault and battery.
Magistrate Linda Lombard set Brownlee’s total bail at $165,792 Thursday, Walker’s at $106,390 and Green’s at $104,260. They all face multiple court appearances in various jurisdictions.
Walker and Green told the judge they were in Charleston visiting family and friends. When Lombard asked Brownlee what she was doing in Charleston, she said, “Nothing.”
Not the first time
Two of the suspects have been accused of ripping off retailers before, according to police records obtained from Miami.
Brownlee was arrested less than a month ago for shoplifting from a Miami Beach clothing store. Walker’s last arrest was for third-degree grand larceny in December 2011. Green was expected in court Thursday in Miami to face charges of obstruction. She also was accused of stealing from a Miami Bloomingdale’s last May.
Dave Munday and Prentiss Findlay contributed to this report. Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.