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Police lay out details of armored car robberies

LAWRENCEVILLE — Armored truck robbery suspect Stacey Dooley, pegged by police as a ringleader, made the unexpected move of calling 911 before a planned heist March 30 at a Bank of America branch in Johns Creek, according to testimony.

Bent on creating a police diversion, Dooley told a 911 dispatcher he was witnessing a home invasion and kidnapping about a mile from the bank. Dooley’s tactics didn’t work because, unbeknownst to him, police were monitoring his phone and controlling the bank truck he was planning to stick up. His red Chevy Impala was also being trailed by FBI units from Atlanta, Dallas and New York, a detective testified Wednesday.

A takedown ensued.

So ended the alleged robbery spree of Dooley and five brazen co-conspirators who played roles in eight armored truck heists across metro Atlanta that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars between October and March. Dooley was allegedly planning the March 30 heist as his denouement, with aspirations of using the money to marry his pregnant girlfriend, Snellville resident Desiree Jones, who sat beside him during a probable cause hearing Wednesday, wearing a matching green jumpsuit and occasionally rubbing her belly.

Dooley and Jones joined suspects Quentin Booker and Ashley Henderson in court. Over several hours, they watched as Gwinnett police Detective AP Whaley laid out evidence for a judge and a courtroom gallery crowed with supporters.

Detectives relied heavily on cell phone records that put various combinations of the suspects near crime scenes and in conversations with each other. They spoke in code — using terms like “school bus” for bank trucks, “homework” for casing assignments and “change” for cash — and used monikers for each other. Those records also point to two planned armored truck heists that didn’t happen, after suspects were seen sharking a truck leaving a Walmart near Stone Mountain on March 7, and a Food Depot in DeKalb County three weeks later, Whaley testified.

The robberies in Gwinnett include a Dec. 7 hold-up at the Mall of Georgia, when shots were fired, and a Nov. 11 robbery outside a Bank of America branch on Buford Highway.

Whaley testified that Henderson and Booker skimmed $40,000 each from the $162,000 they scored in the Mall of Georgia heist. In other heists, Dooley doled out payments for jobs completed, such as $5,000 to Booker for being a lookout during the Nov. 11 stick-up, Whaley said.

The robbery spree turned deadly March 15, when Lawrenceville resident and armored car courier Gary Castillo was gunned down outside a grocery store near Atlanta. DeKalb County police have charged Henderson, Dooley and Thornton with murder in the slaying.

The sixth suspect, Veronica Bullard, a former Dunbar employee, is jailed on armed robbery and conspiracy charges in Cobb County and, like Thornton, was not in court Wednesday.

Whaley said Bullard provided information of armored truck routes and ATM refilling to Dooley and Booker that proved key in location selection for hold-ups.

Investigators believe Jones, who has a child with Dooley and is carrying his baby, aided in the planning stages of robberies in the Snellville area, but did not physically participate.

Cross-examination by defense attorneys was expected to continue into Wednesday evening.

Whaley described a complex web of cell phone analytics, confessions and innumerable surveillance hours used to implicate each suspect. During one instance in March, Booker tore through parking lots, trying to shake “trackers” who were following him on the ground and an FBI plane watching from above.

Booker knew the “heat” was all over him, Whaley testified.