A man toting an assault rifle and a bulletproof vest robbed three Mid-City businesses in less than two hours Wednesday morning, stealing thousands of dollars in cash and opening fire on a clerk before officers caught him in the middle of a heist on South Broad Street.
No injuries were reported.
Officers responded within minutes to each robbery and showed “great restraint” in arresting the gunman, Judah Mason, as he robbed the Banks Meat Market shortly before 4 a.m., Police Superintendent Michael Harrison said.
Mason, 28, wore a ski mask during at least one of the stickups, the chief said.
“When someone shows up with a bulletproof vest, wearing a mask, with an AK-47 and a pistol, they are prepared for the ultimate battle,” Harrison told reporters. “(Officers) were able to subdue him, disarm him without any shots being fired, without anyone being injured.”
The string of robberies started after 2 a.m. when Mason barged into the Orleans Grocery Center on Orleans Avenue, brandishing an assault rifle and demanding cash, police said. He took more than $2,000 and several cellphones, police said, and warned he would return to the store if the clerk called the authorities.
Less than an hour later, a masked Mason entered the Ideal Gas Station about a half-mile away and ordered customers inside to get down on the ground, police said.
The store clerk confronted the robber, jumping over the counter, grabbing one of Mason’s firearms and pointing it at him. The weapon fired into the floor during the struggle, police said, but Mason eventually gained control of both weapons. He took cash from the register and, as the clerk tried to follow him, opened fire on him before fleeing in a white sedan, police said.
Police finally caught up with Mason when officers responded to a report of a “suspicious person” with a gun inside the meat market on South Broad Street. They ordered Mason to drop his pistol, and a brief struggle began.
“This man made a conscious decision to threaten the lives of our citizens,” Harrison said. “His behavior is not acceptable, and we took swift action to get him off our streets.”
The victims of each robbery identified Mason as the gunman who held them up, Harrison said. He said investigators recovered “large amounts of cash” and several cellphones and stolen goods, along with the ski mask and some marijuana inside Mason’s backpack.
Mason was booked on several counts of armed robbery, attempted murder, aggravated assault and use of a firearm during an armed robbery.
Follow Jim Mustian on Twitter, @JimMustian.