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Article updated: 6/24/2013 3:51 PM

Oak Brook cops: Would-be robbers staked out mall for hours

By Josh Stockinger

A Detroit man who was shot by a security guard at Oakbrook Center may have spent hours staking out the mall with two accomplices Sunday before they tried to rob a jewelry store with a sledgehammer, authorities said Monday.

"It's not like they came from the parking lot and walked right in," Oak Brook Police Chief James Kruger said.

Kruger said investigators are reviewing food receipts and surveillance footage that indicate the suspects were at the mall for at least a couple of hours. Authorities said they also located a Jeep early Monday morning they believe the men stole from a mall worker and planned to use for their getaway.

Six employees and 10 customers were inside the C.D. Peacock jewelry store when the trio entered around 3:40 p.m. Sunday, according to police.

A store security guard shot one suspect, a 24-year-old Detroit man, after he smashed a glass display case with a handheld, 4-pound sledgehammer that had been tucked in his waistband and covered by his shirt, Kruger said. The other two men fled during the confrontation and remained at large.

The injured suspect was under police guard at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, where he underwent surgery and was listed in critical but stable condition Monday. So far, Kruger said, the man has been unable to speak to officers but his family in Detroit is cooperating.

Detectives believe the men arrived at the upscale shopping center hours before the robbery and stole a Jeep Liberty outside Neiman Marcus, along 22nd Street on the south end of the mall property.

To "facilitate their exit," they then backed the vehicle into a handicap parking space outside Macy's and closer to the ground-level jewelry store on the west end of the mall, Kruger said.

On Monday morning, police in neighboring Oakbrook Terrace found the vehicle abandoned outside an office building less than a half-mile from the shopping center.

Kruger said investigators are going through the vehicle for evidence, but there were no security cameras in the area where it was parked.

Kruger described the armed guard as an experienced security officer for a firm contracted by C.D. Peacock. He said the male guard was believed to be the only security staff member at Oakbrook Center licensed to carry a firearm on the job.

"Part of our investigation is going to be making sure that all of his actions and licensing were proper," Kruger said. "At this point, there's nothing to lead us to believe otherwise."

Kruger said the guard was dressed in a blazer rather than a formal security uniform, and the would-be robbers probably didn't initially realize he was armed. As a result of the shooting, he said, C.D. Peacock is considering a new dress code to make its armed guards "more visible."

Kruger said robberies are relatively uncommon at Oakbrook Center.

There have been just six reports of robberies or attempted robberies at the mall since it opened in the 1960s, he said. Aside from Sunday's attempt, the most serious case was in 2003 when three masked assailants tied up four employees of the Bailey Banks & Biddle store and fled with a "substantial amount" of jewelry.

Kruger said there's "no quick and easy" exit from the open-air mall, which covers multiple levels on a sprawling campus between Route 83 and Spring Road.

He said the public should still feel safe there.

"There's no immediate danger at Oakbrook Center," he said.

Police identified the missing suspects as black men in their late 20s or early 30s. One was described as heavyset, 5 feet 9 inches tall and 230 pounds with a tattoo on the right side of his neck and wearing a black T-shirt. The other was described as 5 feet 11 inches tall and 160 pounds with a "heavy beard" and wearing a white T-shirt.

Kruger said investigators were following up with numerous witnesses, including people who were in the store at the time of the shooting and others passing by.

To report information, call (630) 368-8760.

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