Police arrest 3 for taking Nicorette gum valued at $2,000

By: Sarah Wojcik | Shelby - Utica News | Published June 13, 2016

 Justin Knight

Justin Knight

UTICA — At approximately 1:25 p.m. May 31, a loss prevention officer at the Target on Hall Road observed three men who matched a description, down to their exact clothing, of suspects who cleared out a different Target’s stock of Nicorette gum the day before.

Utica Police Chief David Faber said Target had sent information about the theft to all of its stores in case the suspects repeated the crime.

Police responded to the store while the suspects were still inside. Target requested that police take up a position out of sight of the front doors, as the suspects reportedly tended to post lookouts.

The suspects entered the store and then split up. Upon splitting up, they each selected a large amount of Nicorette gum, police said. They later met up near the front of the store and loaded the gum into a shopping cart.

The loss prevention officer told police that, upon approaching a suspect identified as Justin Knight, 19, of Oak Park, at the store exit with the cart full of merchandise, Knight pushed the cart in her direction and fled the scene. She said the contact with Knight occurred a few minutes after the other two suspects had fled.

Those two suspects, later identified as Axzavier Wiley, 18, and Travis Moore, 19, of Oak Park, had run out of the store toward a 2009 Pontiac G6, where police reportedly intercepted them and, at gunpoint, ordered them to lie on the ground.

Another police officer apprehended Knight near the T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant at the corner of Hall and Schoenherr after he attempted to flee the scene on foot, police said.

Faber said the three suspects were taken to the Police Department, booked without incident and held overnight. They were arraigned the next day at the 41-A District Court in Shelby Township and charged with organized retail crime, according to a criminal clerk.

The suspects’ pretrial conferences are set for June 15, and their preliminary examinations are set for June 20.

“Oftentimes, (suspects in cases like these) take (stolen merchandise) to party stores and resell it for pennies on the dollar, who obviously can then resell it and make a good profit,” Faber said. “I don’t know if it’s the case in this case, but it’s often to support a drug habit.”

Early last year, the Police Department caught two suspects who stole cases of Red Bull energy drink from the Gordon Food Service in Utica. Another commonly stolen item, Faber said, is baby formula, because people need it everywhere.

At press time, Wiley had not yet been assigned a court-appointed attorney.

Peter Torrice, court-appointed counsel for Moore, did not return a request for comment by press time.

Vincent Manzella, the anticipated substitute for Knight’s court-appointed counsel, did not return a request for comment by press time.