One of the most audacious crime sprees the nation's restaurants have ever seen may soon be coming to a close.
Dandre Shabazz, 41, of Alpharetta, Georgia, an alleged member of the "Daybreak Bandits," so-called for their favored time to strike, turned himself in to authorities in August after local and federal law enforcement released his name as a suspect. Shabazz (pictured) was charged with robbery but has yet to be indicted.
Over the past five years 40 to 50 restaurant robberies in the Deep South have been attributed to the band of thieves, most taking place between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. as sparse early-morning crews arrived for work. Typically striking as a pair—with a possible third in a getaway car—the Daybreakers would bind employees' hands before making off with whatever cash they could find.
"Somebody would show up for work," says Lt. Tom Arnold of the Cobb County Police Department, northwest of Atlanta. "As they were entering the business, they were approached at gunpoint, forced to go into the business and turn the alarm off."
Authorities say they only learned of the pattern after restaurant employees began talking to one another about the similarities in robberies across Georgia, Tennessee and Florida.
Shabazz became a suspect after cops approached him sitting in a car outside an Atlanta-area restaurant. Shabazz fled, but cops found his ID in the car. When the restaurant was later robbed, authorities put two and two together and released his name as a suspect. Law enforcement is now investigating similar robberies in Virginia and South Carolina and caution restaurant workers to be vigilant at a vulnerable time of day.
"We had one case," says Arnold, "where a guy said, 'I saw a car sitting in the parking lot and I knew it didn't belong but decided just to go in anyway.' He was robbed." Area restaurants have gathered a reported $15,000 in reward money.