Thieves Use a Church Van Like a Battering Ram for Two Local Break-ins

Earlier this week in Atlanta, a few aspiring thieves packed into a van in the middle of the night and rolled down to Gene’s Pawn Shop in Cornelia. Once they got there, they didn’t park in front of the place — that would raise suspicion. Quizzically, they didn’t park behind the place, either. As it turns out, they parked inside the pawn shop, using a stolen church van as a battering ram to gain entry inside.

In what’s shaping up to be a puzzling smash-and-grab story, the thieves knocked down the front door to the establishment with their hot van, then ran out of the vehicle and into the shop to acquire as many firearms and personal computers as they could carry. Then, they piled back into the van and made haste, driving far, far away from the scene of their cacophonous crime.

One witness on the scene saw the event and called local police, but even though authorities should up in two minutes’ time, the van was long gone.

“When they knocked the front door down and the witness saw it, he immediately called law enforcement but within probably two minutes they were able to take 20 guns and six laptops and flee and get away,” according to police chief Rick Darby.

But the criminals didn’t stay under the radar for very long. The witness was able to get the name of the church inscribed across the van and with a little investigating, officers discerned that it had been stolen. On Friday, the vehicle was found — but as Darby said, “the suspects are still at large.”

The break-in at Gene’s Pawn Shop comes in the same night as one at Atlanta’s City G.E.A.R. sports clothing store in the southwest part of the city. A witness at the scene of this crime said she could tell that the van was just like those used by some local churches, though she couldn’t make out the entire name on the side, only catching a glimpse of the word “International.”

Capt. Jack Snowden, a spokesman for the Atlanta Police Department, said the crime was perpetrated by two suspects, neither of whom have been found, who used the van to smash the front door before climbing inside and grabbing merchandise in the same way as had been done at Gene’s Pawn Shop.

Church vans are typically used for youth groups to take road trips or for transporting parishioners.

“We’ve heard of vans used for all different kinds of things, but this isn’t one we’ve heard of before,” says Henry Headden, President of Carpenter Bus Sales. “This is a shame. What a waste of someone else’s property that was used to provide a valuable service to their congregation.”

So far, police have not officially connected the two crimes. More details will be released as they’re made available.

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