By Alton Mitchell
Auburn police have arrested five men from nearby Alexander City in connection to a robbery that occurred following a meeting to sell an item off an online classified posting.
According to Auburn Police officer arrested Gary Norris, 25, Jmekio Russell, 19, Malik Holtzclaw, 18, Rodney Carroll, 21, and Da’Jon Graham, 19, for a Thursday night robbery outside of an Auburn business.
Police indicate that a victim had arranged to meet one the of the men in the parking lot of a business in the 1000 block of East University Drive in Auburn to purchase an iPhone following an agreement on a social media classified posting.
When the purchaser arrived at the location to meet the men to see the iPhone he was robbed at gunpoint. The five men fled in a vehicle, which was observed by witnesses who provided Auburn police with a description of the vehicle. Auburn officers observed the vehicle in the vicinity of where the robbery had occurred and performed a traffic stop on the vehicle.
During the traffic stop Auburn officers took the five men into custody. All were booked into the Lee County Jail and charged with robbery, first degree. Police also indicate the victim did receive minor injuries during the robbery and was treated on the scene by paramedics. The five suspects were being held on bonds of $100,000.
The robbery is a reminder that caution should be practiced when making purchases off online advertisements or meeting a person off the internet. Some local communities such as Harris County, Georgia and Smiths Station, Alabama have recently created designated exchange points in the cities near law enforcement offices to keep such incidents from occurring.
Online dating has recently shown dangers in the area as well. Last month a man in Columbus was carjacked and robbed when meeting a woman off of an online dating website at an apartment in the early morning hours. Fatalities have also been reported across the United States as a result of robberies from online classified meetings and online dating meetups.
Caution is always encouraged when meeting people for the first time. Common practices such as meeting in a well-lit public place in the view of various people is always best to prevent such occurrences as what happened in Auburn last week from occurring. Purchases and exchanges can also be done in the vicinity of law enforcement offices for the protection of both parties, and exchanges should never occur at the residence of either party involved in the exchange.