4 accused in armed robbery, assault of store clerk

Sumter County Sheriff Bill Farmer announced the arrest of four minors who are accused in an armed robbery and assault of a store clerk.

During a news conference on Tuesday, the sheriff showed surveillance video of the frightening incident at a Wildwood gas station, just before midnight on Friday. Three suspects, who range in age from 15 to 17,  entered the store with guns drawn.

“They put all the customers on the floor, they robbed them of their cell phones and purses and they also pistol-whipped the clerk,” said Sheriff Farmer.

The video shows the struggle with the clerk, before the suspects get away with cash and tobacco products.  But the story doesn't end there.

Two cars, which authorities said were seen fleeing the scene, led deputies on a chase along Interstate 75. The vehicles drove in the wrong direction on the highway.

“They were actually proceeding southbound at a high rate of speed in the northbound lanes of I-75,” said Sheriff Farmer.

A red car exited and wrecked, and the driver took off on foot. That suspect remains on the run. Four minors in the other vehicle ditched it and ran, only to be caught.

“We apprehended one in the back of a pickup truck, and the next morning, we apprehended three of them in front of Winn Dixie,” said Sheriff Farmer.

Investigators later discovered the cars were stolen.

“Both these cars was stolen doing carjackings -- the red car was stolen in Orange County and the black Cadillac was stolen in Leesburg, in Lake County,” said Sheriff Farmer.

The sheriff believes the boys committed the crime to get into a gang, because the fifth suspect, who was in the red car, watched the robbery from his car.

“It disturbs me that they are actually going after the young people, in our neighborhoods, trying to get them indoctrinated in doing this for them as gang initiation,” said Sheriff Farmer.

The boys are now facing charges including: robbery with a firearm, unlawful possession by a minor and resisting arrest. Two of boys are also charged with grand theft of a car.

Deputies are on the hunt for the fifth suspect and believe they know who he is.