ST. PETERSBURG — Five armed men tried but failed to rob the safe at M.J. Fashion clothing store at 401 34th St. S on Thursday, but refused to leave empty-handed, according to police.
Instead, they stole a "significant amount" of clothes and shoes, said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz.
The robbery took place around 11:50 a.m., police said. That's when five men entered the store carrying firearms. Police believe they were brought to the store in a light-colored sedan.
They locked the front door, forced the clerk to strip, then tied him up with shoelaces and put him in a storage room. The robbers then tried to remove the safe from the store, according to police, but couldn't.
During the robbery, one of the bandits struck the clerk in the mouth with the butt of a gun, police said.
They also talked about shooting and killing a bystander who was loitering outside, police said.
More than an hour later the robbers fled carrying clothing and shoes from the store. They drove off in the clerk's black 2005 Nissan Altima. The clerk freed himself and called police at 1:25 p.m. The stolen car and robbers are still at large.
Detectives were checking the store's video surveillance system but did not release any images late Thursday.
Police don't know if this incident is connected to a series of recent robberies in the city carried out by masked men, but did say that the robbers in this case used different tactics.
Police ask anyone with information about this robbery to call them at (727) 893-7780. Anonymous tipsters can call (727) 892-5000 or text police at (727) 420-8911.