Are Green Hills shoppers ‘soft targets’ for criminals?

Thursday, July 2, 2009 at 3:48am

It’s hard to know just what to make of Jimmy Rogers?

Is he a retail-warrior version of Don Quixote, jousting windmills in the thriving Green Hills retail district? Or, for all his eccentricities, is Rogers the one guy who is actually responding rationally to the recent violent crimes against Green Hills shoppers?

In one breath, Rogers talks about his memories as a youth, who ran around with a stick in the backyard pretending to be John Wayne. He transitions into combat stories from Vietnam, and then tales from his time as a Metro cop, where he worked as a latent fingerprint expert.

These days, Rogers is the owner of Tennessee Security Services, which employs 24 guards. Rogers and his security guards oversee a four-block stretch of Green Hills real estate, including the Regal Green Hills Cinema and Bedford Commons — just a portion of the mall property.

It may sound like a cushy gig, but that’s not how Rogers describes his job of keeping the affluent Green Hills shoppers safe as they fork over their hard-earned money for all the pricey goods and services the retail district has to offer.

“We’re in a battlefield,” Rogers said. “I may wind up on someone caught in a robbery, or maybe a raping. I’d better be trained to do my job, or I’d better not go home at night,” he said.

Now it would be easy to chalk up Rogers as an alarmist, except for one thing: the reality that Green Hills recently has seen its share of violent crime.

The most shocking incident took place on March 3 on the top floor of the parking garage that adjoins to the Dillard’s department store inside the Mall at Green Hills. Bob DeMoss, a 63-year-old retiree who has lived his entire life in Nashville, parked his 2002 Grand Marquis and made his way toward Dillard’s.

DeMoss was but a few feet away from his vehicle when 21-year-old Bobby Tice Jr. allegedly approached him from behind with a baseball bat. Tice was one of four young people who were allegedly canvassing the Green Hills parking area for the purpose of robbing people for drug money.

According to a lawsuit filed by DeMoss’s family in Circuit Court, Tice struck him on the head with the bat. When DeMoss went to the pavement, Tice allegedly hit him in the head several more times, according to the lawsuit.

The quartet — Tice, Catherine Mills, Johnathon Harris and Brittney Bannister — made off with $173. Within days, the four were each arrested and charged with especially aggravated assault.

DeMoss, however, was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center where he was treated for “catastrophic” injuries, which have left him in need of 24-hour-a-day rehabilitative care.

Catherine Robette Campbell, DeMoss’s niece and conservator, filed a $10 million lawsuit against Dillard’s Inc., which owns and provides security for the garage.

“My client wants to accomplish two things with this lawsuit,” said Nashville attorney John Norris, who is representing Campbell in the civil suit. “ The first is to bring Bob home and, second, to make sure what happened to Bob doesn’t happen to someone else.”

Shoppers on alert

The savage beating of DeMoss, who suffered a fractured skull and brain damage because of the assault, put Green Hills retailers on guard. Was the crime a random act of violence, or were criminals now targeting Green Hills shoppers for their money?

“Shoppers in Green Hills are what criminals refer to as a soft target,” Rogers said.

While crime stats don’t show a rise in incidents, shoppers have been on alert because of the high-profile nature of the attacks. Amber Cruth lives in East Nashville, but frequently shops in the Green Hills area.

“You wouldn’t think that would happen here,” Cruth said. “You hear bad things I guess anywhere, but it did scare me a little bit. I’m more aware living in East Nashville than I am here, I don’t watch my back quite as much.”

As it were, the beating of DeMoss was preceded just three days by another robbery attack against a Green Hills shopper.

On Feb. 28, Adam Sharpe was attacked as he started to get out of his car to head toward the Cheeseburger Charley’s adjacent to the mall and movie theater. Sharpe was allegedly approached by two men, who struck him, forced his head into the wedged car door and stole his wallet.

The attack on Sharpe occurred within shouting distance of the attack on DeMoss, yet according to the DeMoss family lawsuit, no extra security measures were taken to protect shoppers in the days that followed.

In early June, 18-year-old Erin Thurman had his car break down inside the parking garage connected to the movie theater — a garage that Tennessee Security Services protects.

According to Rogers, security guards asked Thurman if he needed help, to which he said no. But less than five minutes later, Thurmon was approached by two men, who held a gun to his head and forced him into his trunk after robbing his wallet and cell phone.

“I’m trying to tell people, it’s dangerous here,” Rogers said. “That boy wasn’t alone but five minutes and [he was still robbed]. We deal with gangs; we deal with thieves. It’s serious.”

Community responds

The prominent crimes against shoppers have left retailers with two questions.

The first is to discern whether the crimes point to Green Hills shoppers being targeted. The second is whether retailers are doing everything possible in order to keep themselves safe.

In response to concerns, Metro Councilman Sean McGuire, who represents Green Hills, is in the process of facilitating a community meeting where shop owners and shoppers can seek the counsel of Metro Police.

“We want to do everything we can to keep everyone as safe as we can,” he said.

However, McGuire pointed out that the crime statistics provided by Metro Police show crime is actually on the decline in recent months.

Scott McClure, who works as the marketing director for the Mall at Green Hills, said the mall does not discuss its security operations, but pointed out both the assault against DeMoss and the robbery of Thurmon took place off of mall property.

“We feel like it’s more random acts than anything that seems to have any type of trend,” McClure said.

Rogers disagrees and believes there is a lack of communication between the security companies, which patrol the parking lots around the mall.

“There needs to be better communication between the different security companies and the police,” Rogers said.

Safe and secure?

The Tennessee Security Services guards are armed and many are former police officers. A ruling by the Tennessee Attorney General allows armed security officers a fair amount of leeway to essentially act as law enforcement officers on private property. Rogers said all guards in the Green Hills area ought to be armed.

In response to the high-profile crimes, Rogers said he’d like to offer free safety training classes to retail shop owners and frequent Green Hills shoppers so they could learn how to keep as safe as possible.

“We would do this free of charge,” Rogers said, although he offered no details on when such classes might occur.

Metro Police, in the meantime, have not bulked up patrols in the mall area, because contrary to what the prominent nature of the crimes might indicate, statistics say incidents are down.

Since the beginning of the year, there have been just seven criminal incidents in the parking area around the mall, police said. But the three assaults that made headlines generated lots of interest and raised some questions.

Rogers said there have been enough high-profile crimes for Green Hills shoppers and retailers to make a change.

“People in Green Hills have enough influence to change things,” Rogers said. “It’s obvious that crime is on the rise in the Green Hills area, and we must take steps to ensure all people have the right to shop and be safe.”

14 Comments on this post:

By: daKine7 on 7/2/09 at 5:48

These multi-million dollar lawsuits stink. How can society keep itself safe from roving bands of animals like these pond scum thugs who hit Mr. DeMoss? It's an impossibility. I trust he will survive, but $10. million? Blood suckin' lawyers going for the easy mark, Dillards.

By: Kosh III on 7/2/09 at 6:34

No prison for those 4 who attacked DeMoss. Their necks should be broken by a swing of a bat, then they should be released. if they lay on the sidewalk immobilized till they die, so what?

By: girliegirl on 7/2/09 at 7:11

Let's throw one more ember on the fire, shall we: California, and possibly more states are about to release prisoners because they don't have a budget they can meet. This act goes beyond anything seen by activists judges, wouldn't you think? It's no longer safe anywhere in this state, and you can thank the ACLU for "killing" God if you're looking for a reason.

By: frodo on 7/2/09 at 7:19

Soft targets. Sounds like a Rahmism for what the President and Congress are doing to every Green Hills shopper and pretty much all of us. Going by the ethic of the day, this attack was not a crime. It was just the new brand of "hope" and "change," played out on local turf.

By: dangremillion on 7/2/09 at 8:05

all this talk and blogging, guards, lawsuits, etc. wont do a bit of good to prevent this violence. the recession has cause the movement of these thugs into high income neighborhoods and shopping areas as has been outlined in other national notable articles. shoppers need to avoid these enclosed parking areas, be very aware at all times, and preferably obtain carry permits for pistols, appropriate self defense training, and then defend themselves. waiting for guards with or without guns or police to remedy this malady can be a fatal mistake. the retailers in the malls WILL NOT spend the money to provide the numbers of guards it would take to protect the shoppers. the public does not care enough and will not put enough pressure on the vendors or the mall owners. the police already have a limited budget. so its every man for himself. shoppers, wise up. you could be next. dg

By: Funditto on 7/2/09 at 11:17

What does the ACLU have to do with a life of crime? that's the most ludicrous thing I've read in years! Next thing you know, it will be the gays' fault.

By: Funditto on 7/2/09 at 11:19

Drive by Green Hills on Friday night sometime. Blame the parents who drop their kids off there to run wild. I've heard many tales of drunk 5th graders, pot smoking middle schoolers and who knows what else.

By: pandabear on 7/2/09 at 11:59

The cops come afterwards.

The security guards try, but the same thing,
they mostly come afterwards.

Get a permit. Buy a gun. Learn to use. Keep it clean. Carry it.

Become a "hard target".

...burma shave...

By: dangremillion on 7/2/09 at 12:56

if you are afraid of guns (eeeewwwwwwwww!!!!) then carry mace or wasp spray and clean out their eyes if they attack you. just do something except be a hapless victim.

By: pandabear on 7/2/09 at 1:48

Throw Burma Shave in their face :)

By: Equanimity on 7/2/09 at 2:07

Responding to: daKine7 on 7/2/09 at 6:48

These multi-million dollar lawsuits stink. How can society keep itself safe from roving bands of animals like these pond scum thugs who hit Mr. DeMoss? It's an impossibility. I trust he will survive, but $10. million? Blood suckin' lawyers going for the easy mark, Dillards.

The DeMoss family might net $5-6M if such a settlement were approved. Doesn't go far toward providing full-time care for the perpetuity of a man's days or for robbing this family of its loved one. Dillard's has an obligation, and the deepest pockets. Insurers raise their premiums, they raise their prices, you pay more, schools and police get less, punks thrive. Punks are born in homes and die in the streets. 'Til we figure out how to get parents to keep them in the home and off the streets, we're all gonna dig deeper into our pockets.

Responding to: girliegirl on 7/2/09 at 8:11

Let's throw one more ember on the fire, shall we: California, and possibly more states are about to release prisoners because they don't have a budget they can meet. This act goes beyond anything seen by activists judges, wouldn't you think? It's no longer safe anywhere in this state, and you can thank the ACLU for "killing" God if you're looking for a reason.

You should probably just stay at home, GG. You're right, it's no longer safe anywhere. If the ACLU can whack the G-man, you could be next. Make one more stop to pick up plastic and duct tape for your windows and doors, then head straight home. Woo-hoo!

Responding to: Kosh III on 7/2/09 at 7:34

No prison for those 4 who attacked DeMoss. Their necks should be broken by a swing of a bat, then they should be released. if they lay on the sidewalk immobilized till they die, so what?

I wanna party with you, Kosh! Frankenfriend, you put the 'C' in capital punishment! Question: if your swing doesn't break they tiny necks, you gonna pay for their nursing home care? And on the off chance that a child sees you working on your batting average, what kinda message you think that kid's gonna take away?

By: daKine7 on 7/2/09 at 3:10

Enough already! Post the pictures of these punk's parent's pictures....especially Tice's. Guy got out of jail in Jan., commits attempted murder 4 months later. Where are the freakin' parents? Sue them, not Dillard's.

By: frankbrown on 7/2/09 at 7:27

The criminals that rob and maim are on a par with the lawyers that file 10 million dollar lawsuits on behalf of a man 63 years old who has never earned more 1.5 million dollars in all the years he has been alive. My God! what would Bill Gates suit for if it happened to him. 300 billion dollars?

By: tlv425 on 7/6/09 at 7:43

THOUGHT FOR EVERY DAY:

NEVER FORGET --- WHEN SECONDS COUNT, THE POLICE ARE ONLY MINUTES AWAY.

CARRY AND GIVE THEM A MEMORY THEY WILL NEVER FORGET UNTIL THEY DIE. BETTER THAN SHOOTING HAVE THEM REMOVE ALL THEIR CLOTHES AND LEAVE THEIR WALLET AND CELL PHONE AND START RUNNING AND DON'T LOOK BACK. A NAKED PERP SHOULD BE EASY TO CATCH AND EVERONE WILL SURELY NOTICE AND REPORT THEIR WHEREABOUTS.