It was just before lunch and as a woman returned to JTR Enterprises of Gulfport on Wednesday, December 6, an armed gunman confronted her and demanded her purse.
According to police reports, the man brandished a handgun and “barged” into the business then “grabbed the owner’s wife.” Next, he “put the gun to her head while demanding her purse and any other money they had.”
The man with the gun and the woman were in the office area of the business where another man was sitting. While the tense situation unfolded, a third man entered the office from the warehouse portion of the building.
That’s when “a struggle ensued,” said Commander Mary Farrand of the Gulfport Police Department on Tuesday, December 12.
“No shots were fired,” said Farrand. “The suspect fled the scene but left behind evidence that may lead to his identification. The victims only suffered minor injuries.”
When the police received the call at about 11:30 a.m., several officers and Police Chief Rob Vincent responded to the business located at 1510 51st Street S.
As a precaution, Vincent called the administrators at Gulfport Elementary School, which is located about six blocks southwest of JTR Enterprises.
“ was on site when he called over to let us know they had set up a perimeter,” said Jess Hathaway, school principal. “According to an eye witness, they felt the suspect had crossed 49th Street South and then headed southwest.”
Based on standard operating procedure, the school has a choice of going into a lockdown or lockout mode, said Hathaway.
“A full lockdown means that everything is locked and there is zero movement on campus,” he said. “What we chose to go into is a lockout.”
For a lockout, everyone is brought inside the school buildings and hallway movement is limited to only what is necessary, he said. The movement that does happen is “adult directed” or people are “traveling with a partner. It’s like a heightened sense of awareness.”
All of the outside gates and the office are locked but “we don’t cancel things like the cafeteria,” said Hathaway.
Regarding communication with the school, “the city and especially the police department are absolutely outstanding,” he said. “It’s a great partnership.”
The lockout lasted about 20 minutes, said Hathaway.
The police are investigating the robbery incident. As of press time, no suspect was in custody, said Farrand.