Smash and grab at Grosse Pointe City BP station under investigation

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 24, 2021

 Thieves caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to a BP gas station on Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe City during a smash and grab robbery Feb. 13.

Thieves caused thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to a BP gas station on Mack Avenue in Grosse Pointe City during a smash and grab robbery Feb. 13.

Photo provided by Karen Lawrence

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GROSSE POINTE CITY — Longtime business owners are vowing to rebuild after an unidentified group of suspects rammed a pickup truck into their gas station Feb. 13 to break loose a safe that had been bolted to the floor.

Cameron and Karen Lawrence have owned the BP gas station at the corner of Mack Avenue and Rivard Boulevard for the last 30 years. They’ve long given back to local Little League and Red Baron football programs and have hosted car washes for booster clubs, and the support they’ve extended to the community is now coming back to them.

“We’re going to rebuild,” Karen Lawrence said. “The outpouring of love we’ve received (since the burglary), both on social media and people just calling us, just warms my heart.”

That support is a far cry from the cold, calculated crime that preceded it. Around 3:27 a.m. Feb. 13, a police report states, a group of five suspects wearing masks and gloves pulled into the parking lot of the BP service station at 17800 Mack Ave. in a maroon, older model Chevy Silverado with an extended cab and used pry bars to break into the station.

Once inside, police said, the suspects grabbed multiple packages of tobacco products worth an estimated $2,500 and checked cash drawers, but those drawers were empty. Unable to take the store safe by hand, the suspects smashed the truck into the building seven times, breaking open the wall and knocking the safe loose. The suspects then dragged the safe back to their vehicle.

In the roughly two minutes it took the suspects to crash into the building seven times, they caused an estimated $60,000 to $100,000 worth of structural damage to the station, moving all of the walls and destroying food and other property. Although the amount of money in the safe was undisclosed, the suspects are said to have easily caused more than 10 times the amount of damage than what they stole. As Grosse Pointe City Detective Sgt. Joseph Adams pointed out, these days, most people use credit or debit cards — not cash — to make purchases at gas stations.

“All they do is hurt the business,” Adams said of the suspects. “I feel terrible for Cameron. He’s done so much for the community.”

Adams said police believe the truck used to ram the building was most likely a stolen vehicle.

While Adams said businesses in the City have experienced break-ins before, this is the first smash and grab that he’s aware of.

Karen Lawrence said the station’s employees called and showed up early in the morning on Feb. 13 to help with cleanup. Belfor Property Restoration was also called in to make temporary repairs to secure the structure and make it safe until it can be rebuilt. Lawrence said a number of residents and friends offered to help, as well. As a result, the gas station was able to reopen almost immediately, and it remains open for customers.

“We managed to get it opened up at 4 o’clock in the afternoon (of Feb. 13),” Lawrence said. “It looks a little different, but everything is up and running. Our employees were amazing.”

Although, as a gas station, many customers drive to the BP station, Lawrence said plenty of people walk or ride bikes there, as well.

“We pride ourselves on service,” she said of the station, where the Lawrences provide a “clean and safe” environment for everyone. “We’re like the neighborhood corner store.”

Karen Lawrence said she and her husband greatly appreciate all of the offers of financial help — some residents even volunteered to set up a GoFundMe account — but she said their insurance policy should cover the costs.

“The community’s been good to us, and we’re very thankful,” Lawrence said. “It truly is a village, because we all watch out for each other.”

Despite the serious property damage, she said she’s just glad the suspects hit the station at a time when it was closed and no one was around.

“Our employees are safe,” Lawrence said.

The suspects who broke into the station are said to have been accompanied by at least one other suspect who was in a lookout vehicle, described as a black, full-sized van. Of the suspects who broke into the station, surveillance footage indicates that one was wearing a black jacket with a green Michigan State University hoodie, two were in all black attire, one was dressed in a black jacket and black hoodie with orange gloves, and one was dressed in a black jacket, black hoodie and black Adidas sweatpants, with light blue laces on his shoes. All of the suspects appeared to be Black and male.

Police were unable to release too many details about the case because the investigation is ongoing.

“We’re actively following up on leads,” Adams said.

He said they had already gotten a number of leads at press time.

“If anyone has any tips, they can call me directly,” Adams said. He can be reached at (313) 417-1190.

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