Police questioned two people as possible suspects in a multi-county armed robbery crime spree that began with a carjacking of a vehicle in Marion County and hours later was used to rob a gas station in southern Bartholomew County.

Police have been searching for three suspects described as armed and dangerous and warned the public to call 911 immediately if they were spotted. The investigation includes determining if a fourth individual might have been involved.

Indiana State police and other police agencies spent Thursday actively searching the area of Stop 12 and Madison Avenue on the far south side of Indianapolis, where a wrecked sport-utility vehicle that the suspects had carjacked in Clermont was found, said Sgt. John Perrine, Indiana State Police spokesman. A handgun was recovered at the scene where the white Hummer H2 was found, Indiana State Police said.

The robbery incidents began around midnight Wednesday when Avon firefighter Jeff Petri was pumping gas into his Hummer at a Speedway gas station in Clermont, Indiana State Police said.

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He was approached by two black males armed with handguns who threatened him and demanded his Hummer, Perrine said.

The suspects took the vehicle, which was then used to transport the three armed robbery suspects to a robbery of a motel in Seymour, and then a Ricker’s gas station just off Interstate 65 in southern Bartholomew County.

Seymour police said three men held up a clerk at gunpoint early Thursday at a motel on the city’s far east side.

Three armed men entered the Knights Inn Hotel at 207 N. Sandy Creek Drive and ordered the clerk to empty the cash register, Seymour police said. The men then fled the area in the white Hummer.

Just after 3 a.m. Thursday, Columbus police were sent to the Ricker’s gas station and convenience store at 3545 W. County Road 450S about an armed robbery involving three masked men with handguns, said Lt. Matt Harris, Columbus Police Department spokesman.

Their description matched that of the men involved in the Seymour robbery, Seymour police said.

Two female employees working at the Columbus convenience store were not injured during the armed robbery, said Jay Ricker, owner of the Anderson-based Ricker’s company.

“They are fine physically. But psychologically, I think they are having a tough time,” Ricker said.

The company has a Crisis Care Network program set up to assist employees with these types of incidents, and Ricker said he thought the two employees would be taking advantage of that.

The Ricker’s gas station at the State Road 58 exit of Interstate 65 in Columbus is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, serving around-the-clock shift workers at nearby industries in the Woodside Industrial Park, Ricker said.

There were no customers in the store when the robbery happened, which is unusual because this particular location is typically busy around the clock, he said.

The three masked gunmen left the store with an undisclosed amount of cash and were last seen leaving the parking lot in the Hummer that had been reported stolen in Indianapolis, Harris said.

Indiana State Police trooper Kory Clark and Columbus police officers located the vehicle a short time later on State Road 46, near I-65, but when officers tried to stop the Hummer the driver refused to pull over and went back onto I-65 traveling north, Harris said.

Columbus police, alerted to the Ricker’s armed robbery, were in the area because they were concerned that the number of gas stations at the State Road 46 exit might attract the suspects to try another robbery, Harris said.

During the pursuit north through Bartholomew and Johnson counties, which reached speeds of 100 miles per hour, the suspects hit tire-deflation devices that were placed on the interstate by police, Harris said.

The suspects left the interstate at Exit 101 just north of Greenwood and eventually crashed the Hummer near the Berkeley Common Apartments at Madison Avenue and Stop 12, Harris said.

The three suspects left the vehicle and fled on foot as officers from multiple police agencies established a perimeter for a search, Harris said.

Police are continuing to investigate whether a fourth individual was involved in the armed robberies.

Descriptions of suspects

Columbus police released the following descriptions of suspects involved in armed robberies in Seymour and Columbus.

Suspect 1: Approximately 6-feet tall wearing a black hooded sweatshirt or jacket and a black face mask. He is a white male.

Suspect 2: Approximately 5-foot-7 to 5-9 wearing a dark blue hooded sweatshirt, khaki pants with white tennis shoes and a red knit hat. His face appeared to be covered during the robbery. Possibly has blonde hair protruding from the hat. He is a black male.

Suspect 3: Approximately 5-5 to 5-7; wearing all-black clothing with a black face mask. Design on his dark pants, knit hat with red and white stripes. He is a black male.

Police are investigating the involvement of a fourth suspect, although no description is available.

Ricker's policy during robberies

Ricker’s owner Jay Ricker said two female employees who were working during an armed robbery just before 3 a.m. Thursday at its location at 3545 W. County Road 450S followed their training guidelines.

The company instructs all of its employees how to deal with incidents such as robberies, he said. In this case, the two employees followed their training to never argue with a robbery suspect and to give the suspects any money or product they demand.

Ricker said the training is based on years of research on how to handle robberies and best practices to prevent employees from being injured. Although the three suspects in the store brandished guns, the employees were not injured, he said.

The company follows other practices such as having a well-lit property to deter possible robberies, he said. Because the facility is open 24 hours a day, it is also a common place for police officers to stop in for a break during their shifts, which in turn also deters criminals, he said.

Crime spree timeline:

Midnight Wednesday: Three armed men carjacked a white Hummer H2 at the Speedway convenience store in Clermont on the west side of Indianapolis.

2:30 a.m. Thursday: Three armed men hold up a hotel clerk at the Knights Inn hotel at 207 N. Sandy Creek Drive in Seymour.

3 a.m. Thursday: Three armed men hold up a Ricker’s gas station at 3545 W. County Road 450S, Columbus, in Bartholomew County.

A few minutes later, Trooper Korry Clark spots a white Hummer H2 in the area of State Road 46 and Interstate 65, and a chase reaching speeds of 100 mph goes through Bartholomew and Johnson counties.

3:51 a.m. Thursday: The person driving the white Hummer H2 crashes near an apartment complex at Stop 12 and Madison Avenue at the southern tip of Indianapolis.

How to help

Anyone with information about Thursday morning’s robbery at a Ricker’s gas station in Columbus should contact the Columbus Police Department at 812-376-2600. Tips and information may be left anonymously.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.