Armed robbery, kidnapping suspect captured outside grocery store

Deputies say they found victim with bloody face, hands, clothes

Clay County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Austen Downs
Clay County Sheriff's Office booking photo of Austen Downs

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – An armed robbery and kidnapping suspect deemed by Clay County investigators to be a threat to society was taken into custody Tuesday, authorities said.

Austen Levi Downs, 24, of Green Cove Springs, was captured outside a Publix grocery store late Tuesday evening, 20 hours after detectives said he assaulted and kidnapped a 22-year-old Middleburg man. 

According to the arrest warrant, Downs struck the Middleburg man numerous times in the face and then forced the man into the trunk of a vehicle. The warrant shows the Middleburg man also told deputies that Downs threatened to cut and kill him. The warrant stated that the man was held against his will inside the trunk for several hours before he was eventually let out of the vehicle without his backpack, which contained a cellphone, a pair of Bluetooth speakers, shoes, cash and other personal items.

About 3 a.m. Tuesday, dispatch got a 911 call from a person who wanted help after realizing someone was at the door. When deputies arrived, they said they found the victim with blood on his face, hands and clothes, but they said he didn’t require medical attention. 

What remains of the conversation between deputies and the victim was redacted from the warrant, however, the warrant stated the victim personally knew three people who he said were involved in the incident. He identified Downs, a 32-year-old woman and 30-year-old man, according to the warrant.

Investigators went to the Redwing Court address of the 32-year old woman, where according to the warrant, deputies found evidence of what appeared to be a disturbance or struggle that had taken place next to a car in the driveway. 

It’s unclear if the 32-year-old woman and the 30-year-old man were arrested and charged in the case, but deputies were definitely looking for Downs because a sentence in the warrant said Downs was “believed to be a threat to society by his actions.”

Late Tuesday night, according to the arrest report, a 911 call to dispatch about a suspicious person in the Publix store on Blanding Boulevard near College Drive led deputies to a shirtless man who they said was acting "erratic." A deputy noted in the arrest report that the man appeared to be under the influence of narcotics. The deputy said that, when he ran the man’s name, it came back as Austen Levi Downs, who was the man wanted in the armed robbery and kidnapping. 

Downs was immediately taken into custody and booked into the Clay County jail on charges of armed robbery, kidnapping, drug possession and possession of drug equipment, according to online jail records.

On Wednesday morning, a judge set Downs' bond at $161,000. As of Thursday afternoon, Downs remained in the jail.

Court records show Downs has multiple prior drug and theft convictions. 

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