Cops and crooks bolt for safety as tornado rips through area of suspected robbery

Cops and crooks bolt for safety as tornado rips through area of suspected robbery

GROVE CITY, Ohio (WSYX/WTTE) -- As Grove City recovers from this week’s tornado, we are learning more about the chaotic moments as the extreme weather moved through.

First responders had their hands full with wires down, rescues of people stuck in cars, property damage, a power outage, even a gas leak.

But for several police officers who were investigating a suspected robbery in progress, there was an added twist. Alleged crooks in custody and cops were forced to take cover together as the twister hit and hunker down in a Hobby Lobby store.

Officer Joe Hughes, on the Grove City department for nine years, grew up in the community he now patrols. Hughes said he was patrolling near a shopping center when he spotted something that didn’t look right. It turns out there was a robbery in progress in the parking lot. Hughes said a teen had posted some expensive tennis shoes in a Snapchat for sale. But when the buyers came to pick them up, they apparently had no plans to pay for the shoes.

“The transaction was supposed to be for $550 for three pairs of shoes.

I guess you never know what can happen, what you will stumble across and how it is going to start,” said Hughes.

Officers rounded up four juveniles, two were discovered hiding behind a dumpster.

“We found a mask and an airsoft B.B. gun handgun, along with some marijuana,” said Hughes.

But cruiser video shows as the officers were processing the teens, and the victim and a friend were writing out statements in their car, the weather turned ugly. Police said there were shopping carts blowing around, patio furniture scattered from a restaurant, benches, even a lamp broke off and fell on a cruiser. Hail pelted the lot and the winds picked up. The officers knew they had to get the teens to safety inside the nearby Hobby Lobby store.

“I ran outside to another officer that was out there in his cruiser, and I yelled for him to bring his guy inside. I yelled out to the victim of the attempted robbery. He was sitting in the car writing a statement with his friend,” said Hughes.

“We just kind of sat all the suspects down on the floor together and remained there until things calmed down and parents started showing up. Normally, you are not all just sitting there together hanging out.We actually had the victims go stand off a little ways so we didn’t have to worry about any confrontation,” said Hughes.

“We knew that as we were listening over the radio, there was a lot of damage done in the city. You started to realize pretty quick that we needed to get this cleared up as quick as possible so we could start spreading out our resources other places,” said Hughes.

“I think everyone in the situation was just shocked, just kind of lost and dumbfounded,” said Hughes. “Then to see the spiral and all the debris spinning around in a circle, it was one of those moments where you are looking at it and thinking is this really happening?”

The teens were allowed to go home with their parents after the twister hit and moved out of the area. Charges against them are pending.

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