NEW: Gardens Mall attack suspects tried to strangle victim, police say


One of two men arrested in connection with a robbery in the parking lot at The Gardens Mall on Nov. 27 allegedly attempted to strangle the victim inside his vehicle, according to an arrest report.

The victim, a 19-year-old Broward County man, nearly lost consciousness before his attackers ran from the car and escaped, the report said.

Reagan Austin Hearn, 19, of Stuart and Jaedon Johnson, 20, of Boynton Beach were arrested in Volusia County last week and are now being held in the Palm Beach County Jail without bond. Both men are facing charges of robbery with a firearm and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Shooting at Gardens Mall the result of ‘drug rip-offs’

Johnson had arranged to sell the victim a pistol for $280 and agreed to meet in the mall’s parking lot off PGA Boulevard to complete the transaction.

The report states that Johnson and the victim knew each other after they each attended the Florida Youth Challenge Academy, a military-style alternative high school in the north Florida city of Starke, during five months in 2016, the report said. They lived together in barracks at the school.

Around three weeks ago, Johnson contacted the victim to say he was selling a Glock 19 pistol for a friend, the report said. They settled on a $280 price and decided to meet in the parking lot outside Saks Fifth Avenue on the north side of the mall.

Johnson and Hearn arrived at about 5 p.m. and stepped into the victim’s pickup, then showed him the pistol, the report said. As the victim inspected the gun, Hearn allegedly wrapped a cloth belt around his neck and began strangling him.

“Don’t fight it,” Johnson allegedly said to the man.

The victim told Palm Beach Gardens police that he nearly “blacked out.”

Hearn let go of his grip and he and Johnson fled by running through Saks and to a 2012 Chrysler parked by Sears, the report said. Hearn and Johnson took the gun they were allegedly attempting to sell along with the $280 and the victim’s backpack.

A license-plate reader captured the Chrysler leaving the mall and a records search revealed it was registered to a relative of Hearn, the report said.

Johnson’s fingerprint was found in the back seat of the victim’s vehicle, according to the report. Surveillance-camera video also caught Johnson and Hearn walking through the mall, entering the victim’s pickup and then running away.

Staff writer Rachel Frazin contributed to this story.



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