Captain Scott Bishop credited good working relationships with Cherry Hill Police and solid eyewitness accounts in capturing the suspect, 30-year-old Samuel J. Lloret.
By Matt Skoufalos
On most days, there’s a police officer in the lunch crowd at Bruno’s restaurant in Haddon Township, said Antonio Lucignano.
But the restaurant was mostly empty at 3:30 on Thursday, when Lucignano was taking a pizza out of the oven, and turned around to find a man in a mask pointing a shotgun at him.
“I thought somebody was playing a joke on me,” Lucignano said.
“He said, ‘I’m not kidding.’ I took the money, put it in his hands, and he took off.”
Lucignano said he followed the man outside as a line cook scurried out the back door to call 9-1-1. He watched the man remove his mask as he ran up Lafayette Avenue in Audubon into a waiting vehicle.
“Police came to the rescue right away,” said owner Salvatore Coppola. “There were cops everywhere searching for him, searching for the car.”
But for the rest of the evening, Coppola stared down everyone who came into the store. He thinks he saw the suspect return for dinner that night.
“One guy comes in and gave [Lucignano] a fishy smile,” Coppola said. “He came back at nighttime and had two slices of pizza and a soda.”
Both men said the entire circumstance was unnerving. For the rest of the night, “we were paranoid,” Coppola said.
“It does something to you,” Lucignano said. “I was shaking.”
Police in neighboring jurisdictions “who are not even on the same communication frequencies,” but who always pick up the phone for one another, built the case smoothly, said Haddon Township Police Captain Scott Bishop.
“It was a combination of several towns piecing together information and good, old-fashioned police work,” Bishop said.
“It’s another town taking the time out to communicate [a report that]could have been related, and it was related.”
Details about the suspect reported in the Haddon Township robbery seemed like a possible match to dispatchers answering reports of a man seen at a Cherry Hill hotel. An outstanding warrant detained Samuel J. Lloret, 30, of Audubon, long enough for both departments to make the connections.
“The speediness with which he was located was strictly due to good intuition and good communication,” Bishop said.
The case was also built on solid details from witnesses who “really got things right.
“Good witness descriptions, the captain said, “and they were willing to stick around and give the information to police.”
Surveillance footage of the hotel revealed a car matching witnesses’ descriptions; a search of the premises uncovered a shotgun, mask, and clothes that also matched reports. Lloret was charged with robbery, theft, aggravated assault, and possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. He was remanded to the Camden County jail on $271,000 bail.
“We’re really glad that this guy’s in custody,” said Bishop, who called the daylight robbery “a brazen act,” likely born of convenience by someone with knowledge of the area.
Fortunately, local officers and residents knew it just as well. The broken borders of Haddon Township touch nine different municipalities, and policing them means keeping healthy relationships with the neighbors.
Bishop also believes a younger, more socially inclined generation of officers is helping set the tone for faster, easier, inter-agency communication. He looks for natural opportunities for his officers to network.
Sending Haddon Township detectives on a multi-agency sheriff’s department raid Tuesday paid dividends, as officers who’d served warrants together in Camden were helping track down the car wanted in the robbery by week’s end.
“The networking that you get out of that,” he said, “it’s humongous.”
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