Update: 6 ABC reported Wednesday night police took three suspects into custody in the armed robberies.
The family took no notice as they passed the gray Honda Accord parked at 19th & Cuthbert in Center City, but the occupants of the car took notice of them.
Drew Williams, his parents, brother Matthew and his girlfriend Jacqueline, had just finished a fabulous meal at JG SkyHigh in the Four Seasons Hotel located in the Comcast Center, 19th & Arch. They were minutes away from the terror of a gunpoint robbery at 6:45 on a quiet, cold Tuesday night.
The crime took 59 seconds.
Here is Drew Williams’ account.
The group had made a very early dinner reservation because reservations were tight and they wanted to see the sunset from the hotel’s 60th floor.
They parked a few blocks away at Liberty Place and walked to the restaurant in the golden light of the late afternoon.
Williams suspects the robbers were looking for well-heeled patrons leaving the expensive restaurant.
Picking their marks showed smarts on the thieves part, along with a couple of other things they did. Plus a dumb thing.
The car they used was stolen a short time before, which is consistent with their MO, as police suspect these guys have pulled a half-dozen gunpoint robberies in Center City in recent months.
After leaving the restaurant, Williams and his party walked on narrow Cuthbert Street. Might they have been safer on broad, well-lit JFK? Maybe, he says, but there’s no way to know for sure.
They walked about three-quarters of the way up Cuthbert when the Honda pulled up. Three men exited and quickly surrounded the family. One remained at the wheel.
They were all masked. One stuck a gun in Williams’ belly as the other robbers corralled the rest of the family against a wall.
The man with the gun on Williams “demanded to see my wrist,” he said.
His father Glenn “kept his hands in his pockets. He was resisting,” said Williams.
Another gun was pointed at Glenn. “Both look like Glocks,” which have distinctive looks. “I couldn’t tell if they were .9 millimeter or .45s,” said Williams.
They were trapped. With guns pointed at them, and two women, neither fight nor flight was impossible. The best course was the path of least resistance.
“I was in utter shock, but I was very calm at the same time. I never thought my life was in danger at that point, just do as they ask and they will be on their way,” thought Williams.
It later hit him that he could have been killed in an armed robbery four blocks from City Hall, a few days before D.A. Larry Krasner made his ridiculous comments downplaying Philadelphia crime.
“It was so surreal, you can’t believe this is happening,” said Denise Williams, Drew’s mother. “I was focused on the gun pointed at Drew. I was trying to keep these details in my mind for later, but you’re so shaken.”
Drew said the robbers were dressed in black — Black men in their early 20s who spoke with authority, as if they had done this before, but slightly nervous, too.
To his surprise, they didn’t demand wallets from the men, just the Rolex watches worn by Williams and his father, insured for $30,000.
The bandits dug into Jacqueline’s large purse for cash, grabbed some and her cell phone. They didn’t paw through Denise’s tiny purse. They didn’t take the handbags and were not interested in credit cards, just cash and valuables.
They made a mistake with Denise. She was wearing a Lagos necklace, earrings and bracelets, which they did not recognize as valuable.
Another mistake was choosing a street with excellent surveillance cameras.
Jacqueline’s cell phone got tossed on the sidewalk, probably because they realized cops could use it to trace the location of the car. “We don’t want your phones,” one of them said.
The entire incident took less than a minute.
Once they pulled away, Drew dialed 911 and a bystander went into the Comcast Center to summon a cop who is stationed there.
Williams and his parents live in Old City, where a groom was robbed at gunpoint a few nights after they were robbed. Williams says he has lived in several parts of Center City “and up until this event, I have always felt safe.”
Now, with armed robberies and carjackings, he said, “I have to be cautious. You don’t know when someone will come at you with a gun.”
Being armed in this case would not have helped, and possibly made things worse, said Drew.
“You think there’s safety in numbers,” said Denise, “but nothing would have helped. You have to be aware of your surroundings, but you can’t let it make you paranoid.”
She and Drew agreed they just lost possessions, which can be replaced. The one-minute incident could have ended much worse.