73ºF

Robbed cab driver: 'I didn't know if he had a gun'

5 runaway teens arrested in robbery of Jacksonville taxicab driver

photo

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – A veteran Jacksonville cab driver who police said was robbed by a group of teenage boys Wednesday night told News4Jax Thursday that she's still shaken from the experience.

Beth Bailey, 39, said she's been a cab driver for about 12 years and has never had anything like Wednesday's robbery happen to her before.

Five teenagers accused of robbing Bailey near the St. Augustine Premium Outlets were found and arrested at a nearby convenience store Wednesday night, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office.

IMAGES: Mug shots of teens arrested

Bailey told deputies she was dispatched to a restaurant in the 4600 block of Lenoir Avenue in Jacksonville to transport five people to the outlet mall off State Road 16 in St. Johns County.

The five, who Bailey said appeared to be in their late teens, agreed to pay the $65 fee in advance, deputies said.

Bailey said she didn't think much about the five teens and said everything seemed normal as she drove them to the outlet mall.

After arriving at the rear of the mall around 10:30 p.m., four of the teens got out of the cab, leaving one directly behind Bailey, deputies said. They said that teen then demanded money from Bailey, who gave him $100.

"He told me to give him all my money. I'm like, 'OK.' I didn't know if he had a gun," Bailey said. "The first thing -- the very first thing that came to my mind were my kids, you know? And the fact that I didn't know if this guy had a gun or a knife or what was about to happen to me. My kids' faces went through my head."

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said Bailey did the right thing in handing over the cash.

"Especially if there's a group of five of them there," Smith said. "You never know what kind of harm they can do. And they were probably in a secluded area near the mall, and there was no one else around. So, the best thing in that case is to just give them the money."

After Bailey handed over the money, the five teens fled on foot, and Bailey called the Sheriff's Office, deputies said.

Deputies said they searched the area, and after a short time found the five on the east side of Interstate 95 near a convenience store, where they were apprehended without incident and positively identified by Bailey.

"I had to go identify them and when I got there, they brought each one of them out. They had them all lined up," Bailey said.

The suspects were identified as 15-year-olds Devon Page, Cainan Thomas, and Zachary Hawkins, and 14-year-olds Jayden Casey and Eddie Griffin.

Page was charged with robbery by sudden snatching, while the other four were charged with accessory after the fact for robbery by sudden snatching. Thomas was also charged with providing a false name to law enforcement.

The teens were arrested, booked into the St. Johns County Jail and turned over to Juvenile Justice. All five were runaways from the Youth Crisis Center in Jacksonville.

Two of them are from Jacksonville, two from St. Augustine and one from Middleburg.

The president and CEO of the crisis center, Greg Steele, said the facility is not a "lockdown" residence and the kids are able to leave. 

Steele said the center will look at each individual teen's involvement case-by-case in the robbery incident and decide if the teens should be allowed back in the facility.

The organization is also looking into the incident and hopes to learn from it to prevent future runaway incidents, Steele said.

Bailey said she's just thankful she survived the incident and advised other drivers to protect themselves.

"Be cautious. Carry some kind of weapon," Bailey said. "Seriously, carry some kind of weapon."


About the Authors: