Robbery suspect arrested in Austin
Taylor confesses to Lockhart robbery
By LPR Staff
Lockhart police and business owners can breathe easier this week, after the suspect in a series of armed robberies was apprehended last week in Travis County.
The suspect, Ira Douglas Taylor, 33, was taken into custody last week after a failed robbery attempt of an East Austin c
onvenience store. According to reports, Taylor, who later confessed to at least one of Lockhart”s four recent armed robberies, attempted to rob a store on Cedar Avenue near 14th Street in East Austin, when a clerk and at least three customers resisted, then beat the suspect and held him at bay until Austin police arrived on the scene. He was transported to Brackenridge Hospital for minor injuries and later booked into the Travis County Jail.
“We found out about his arrest the next morning, after he was booked in,” said Lockhart Chief of Police Mike Lummus. “Because of the similarities to our robberies, and based on some information that we received during our investigation, we thought we might be looking at the right suspect, and we went to interview him.”
Lummus said Taylor confessed to at least one of Lockhart”s robberies. However, witness accounts and the method of the robberies points to Taylor as the perpetrator in all four, as well as one attempted robbery in mid-September.
Taylor, whose last known address is in Austin, is suspected to have been spending time in Lockhart with acquaintances, some of whom police have yet to question.
“There are still parts of the investigation that we are working on, trying to bring everything together completely,” Lummus said. “But the efforts that this small department put in trying to solve this thing were wonderful, and it”s paid off well.”
Through information gained from investigators, witness statements and confidential informants, Lockhart police have been able to link Taylor to a nearly month-long rash of crimes in the Lockhart area, beginning on Sept. 16 with an attempted robbery at the Lockhart Grocery on 183 North.
“According to the report from the clerk at the store, the suspect came to the door, wearing a mask, just as the clerk locked the door,” Lummus said. “He beat on the door and demanded to be let in, but the clerk backed away from the door and called the police.”
Later, the suspect changed his pattern, robbing stores between 9:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 23 and Oct. 4.
Lummus said that the crime reports and amounts stolen matched in such a way that it appeared possible that the suspect may have been robbing stores to feed a drug habit.
“Based on what he was taking and when he was taking it, we figured we were looking at the same guy,” he said. “And this small department went into action, pulling everything together to the point that we had an eye on him before he was arrested in Austin.”
After the second robbery, investigators began comparing notes on similar robberies, while patrol officers used confidential informants to gain information on possible suspects.
“When the third robbery happened on Oct. 11, which was immediately followed by another the next night, we mobilized the entire department to solve this thing,” Lummus said. “In addition to the patrol officers regularly on shift, we utilized off-duty and reserve officers, as well as members of the Chisholm Trail Special Crimes Unit and the Caldwell County Sheriff”s Office to saturate the area he was hitting.”
Lummus said local law enforcement invested more than 200 man-hours over a five-day period to close the net on Taylor. At peak times, at least 10 officers, in addition to the on duty patrol, were surveying target areas throughout Lockhart.
“It”s really impressive that everyone in this department stepped up and did what we needed to do,” he said. “We had people working informants, people working full shifts and then coming back to do stake-outs, and people working the investigation side, and it all just came together.”
Lummus is confident that, had Taylor not been arrested during the botched robbery attempt in Austin, he would have been caught if he tried to rob another Lockhart store.
“A part of me feels that, because of the great work of this department, that we might have showed that we were closing in on him and drove him to another area,” he said.
“In a larger city like Austin, this would be the same as maybe 30 stores getting hit inside a week,” Lummus noted. “For Lockhart, for a quiet community like ours and a small community like this, this was a huge thing. Unfortunately, because it is a small town, we had to keep much of the investigation quiet. If it had been known that we were on stake-outs and closing in on this suspect, he might have changed his patterns, and it might have made him more difficult to catch.”
Although Taylor claimed that he had a weapon during the robberies, no witness ever saw one. Further, no weapon was found in his possession when he was arrested in Austin.
“We know that no one saw a weapon, but he did claim to have one,” Lummus said. “It”s impossible to say whether he was armed or not. All we know is that he claimed that he was armed.”
As of Tuesday, police had not had the opportunity to re-interview Taylor, who according to Lummus has an extensive police record, which includes jail time. However, working with the District Attorney”s Office, the police department hopes to bring charges for each of the four robberies and the one attempted robbery.
“The one good thing that this has brought is an opportunity for us to review our security practices,” Lummus said. “In each of the cases where a store was robbed, they either didn”t have video security equipment, or they weren”t taping at the time of the robbery. We”re used to this being a quiet town where this doesn”t happen, but we have to remember that sometimes, things like this do happen.”