Surveillance shows 2-night heist costing car dealership $180K

Brand new cars stolen from Ernie Palmer Toyota twice in 1 week

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Surveillance video captured multiple thieves breaking into a car dealership on Jacksonville's Westside and stealing several brand-new vehicles -- twice in one week.

Car thieves hit Ernie Palmer Toyota on Cassat Avenue Sunday night, and again Tuesday night.

Ernie Palmer Toyota manager Doug Mikesell told News4Jax on Wednesday that the two-night heist cost them $180,000.

Late Tuesday night, burglars used a fire extinguisher to bust open a glass door. Once inside, they got keys to several brand-new vehicles and drove off in them. 

Surveillance video clearly shows brand-new cars being driven off the lot of the dealership in the middle of the night.

“It’s pretty bad when you have to go to car dealership and take their cars," Mikesell said. "Nobody wants to see this and we don’t need this. And we don’t need this. Nobody needs this. We’ll find you.”

Mikesell said it appeared four to six men were involved.

“We’re being told that, in both cases, the thieves ran off with vehicles through this path here -- a path in which there is a pole to the right and a tree to the left," Mikesell said. "They simply ran over those bushes, off out into the street.”

But perhaps the biggest mystery is how long the crooks were inside the dealership without the alarms going off. 

According to time codes on the surveillance video, the burglars were inside the building Tuesday night for two hours without the alarms sounding. News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said that is highly suspicious. 

"To be in there for two hours, they were very confident. They were taking their time," Smith said. "That's very usual for a business like this for burglars to stay in for this long period of time."

Smith said someone in the group may be familiar with the building. 

"They knew where the lockbox was and, maybe they can circumvent the alarm system," he said.

Another interesting question is how the men drove off with multiple vehicles that didn't have license plates without being stopped by police. 

"They may have decided to travel on side streets instead of the main street," Smith said. "That way, they avoid law enforcement by going down a street not heavily trafficked."

The dealership is hoping video of one of the men, who was not covering his face, will lead police to him and the others who took part in the car thefts both nights.

Anyone with information about the thefts is asked to call the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office at 904-630-0500.

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