Shelby Township police arrested three men who were allegedly involved in a "sophisticated" series of church and business robberies in Macomb County—including St. Luke Lutheran Church in Clinton Township.
The men, ranging in age from 17 to 20 years old and from Macomb and St. Clair counties, conducted a variety of robberies from smash-and-grab to sophisticated crimes which used special equipment to get into safes, radio systems to communicate and documents to disarm alarms, according to Shelby Township Police Chief Roland Woelkers.
"They are a sophisticated crew and we are really happy to get them off the street," Woelkers said.
The three men were arrested after a break-in at a Speedway gas station at 23 Mile Road and M-53 where police said two of the men entered the business and a third acted as a lookout while using two-way radios to communicate.
Eric Joseph-Edward Eby, 19 of Shelby Township, was arrested at the Speedway. Officers from Michigan State Police, Macomb County Sheriff's Office and Sterling Heights assisted in searching for other men, who had fled into the Cherry Creek Golf Course.
With the assistance of a K9 unit, Jesse Vincent Brusseau-Meray, 20, of Riley Township was caught about 3 a.m. on the course.
The 17-year-old, Logan P. Gerring, turned himself in about 7 a.m. Tuesday with a relative.
Following the arrests, police executed search warrants at a storage unit in Shelby Township along with the suspects parents' residences in Shelby Township and Sterling Heights, where officers were able to recover donation envelopes from the three churches, including two robbed during Holy Week celebrations, about $6,000 in cash, and electronics.
While investigators said the men did not attempt to cash the checks, they did save the donation envelopes. Police said they also spent the cash on a number of expensive items, including flying lessons.
"They had a well thought-out plan, they went through and were able to get into the church safes really quickly, said Shelby Police Det. Lt. Thomas Kohl. "They were an established crew. I would have thought this was a lot older individuals."
Investigators have said thieves stole more than $40,000 in Easter offerings at St. Therese Lisieux Roman Catholic Church in Shelby Township and took an undisclosed amount of cash at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Clinton Township. The crimes took place around the same time frame and are potentially linked to a robbery at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Utica in February.
Police believe they "had surveillance on the churches," and Gerring worked at St. Lawrence.
In addition, police said they have robbed a police supply store where they took items including badges, handcuffs and tactical lights.
Earlier this month, developer and attorney Thomas Guastello, who owns the Comfort Inn in Utica and Shelby Town Center, for tips leading to arrests and convictions in the case. He also said he was donating $1,000 to St. Therese to help its ongoing efforts in the community.
Other businesses and parishioners, some from as far away as Arizona, have donated to the church following the robbery.
The three were to be arraigned Tuesday on burglary charges, with the robbery charges for the churches and other businesses in Utica, Shelby and Clinton township pending.
Check back with Patch for updates.