2 Mandarin businesses robbed in 24 hours, police say

Unknown whether Dollar Tree, Starbucks robberies are connected

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There's a neighborhood crime alert in Mandarin, where two businesses were robbed in less than 24 hours, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.  

The first happened about 6:30 p.m. at the Dollar Tree store on San Jose Boulevard near Claire Lane. The next afternoon, police said, a Starbucks less than a mile away was targeted by an armed robber.

Investigators have not said whether the two robberies were connected. 

News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said he was shocked the Dollar Tree was hit, since it's just about 50 feet away from the busy street and in close proximity to so many other stores. But he was even more surprised to learn that police said a man held up a Starbucks, where there were many people inside -- including 18-year-old Cameron.

"I had my headphones in, looking at my computer, and a manager, kind of, gets up and says, 'Guys, you guys are going to have to leave the building.' And we're like, 'What happened?' And she's like, 'We've been robbed and he had a gun and you all need to leave," Cameron recounted to News4Jax on Wednesday. 

Cameron said he was just studying for his AP classes at the Starbucks when it was robbed -- only it happened so fast that only the baristas knew what was happening. 

According to a police report, a man walked into the Starbucks about 3:45 p.m. and whispered to a cashier, "I have a .45 and I am going to blow your f****** head off if you do not give me your money."

Another barista told police that the man had his hand in his shirt pocket and told them not to call 911. 

"I wasn't really fazed by it. The only afterthought I had was, 'I was sitting in front of my computer, as were many other people in the Starbucks store, and he decides to go for the cash,'" Cameron said. 

Police said they were able to find the suspect, who was identified as Louis McDowell, shortly after and arrest him. 

McDowell, 33, is charged with armed robbery. 

Less than 24 hours earlier, police said, the nearby Dollar Tree store was robbed.

A man told the cashier, "This is a robbery, give me all the money or I'll blow your brains out," the police report stated. 

Dollar Tree employees told police that they then handed over the money and the man ran off. Smith said the workers did the right thing. 

"That is always the right thing to do. Some managers will train them to do other things, if there is a way to contact police, but it's always best to comply. It's not worth you losing your life over a few hundred dollars," Smith said. 

Police said the incident was captured on surveillance video, and they described the robber as a white man with short hair who was wearing a gray T-Shirt, black gym shorts and black tennis shoes. 

Anyone with information about the Dollar Tree robbery is asked to call the Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500.