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COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Three men arrested for shoplifting are also suspected in a gunpoint carjacking, an armed robbery and other crimes, Cottonwood Heights police said Thursday.
Sgt. Ryan Shosted said officers responded to a Target store near 7025 Park Centre Drive Thursday afternoon after a report that men were stealing clothes.
"It was just good luck that we located them while they were actually committing another crime," Shosted said. "The detectives were able to put the pieces together and tie together people who were involved in robberies, carjackings."
Police identified the men as Steven Hancock, 27, Corey Heyen, 22, and Diareece McCarty, 20. Investigators said Hancock was a suspect in an armed carjacking in Murray Monday morning.
"This man just came flying into my car across the seat, put a gun right into my forehead," said Peggy Larsen, who had been idling in her car while waiting for her 12-year-old grandson to grab a coat.
Larsen said the man ordered her out of the vehicle.
"I just started screaming, it scared me so bad, and I opened my car door and literally just fell out of it," Larsen said. "I mean, I just thought he was going to shoot me."
Larsen said the man ran over her foot as he escaped in her car.
Investigators said another of the men in custody was suspected of robbing a Ross store in Salt Lake City at gunpoint later Monday. Police also said they believed the group was tied to a chase in which a police cruiser was rammed.
I just started screaming, it scared me so bad, and I opened my car door and literally just fell out of it.
–Peggy Larsen, carjacking victim
Shosted said while officers were searching for Larsen's stolen car and property Monday, they uncovered weapons, drug paraphernalia and evidence at a Cottonwood Heights apartment.
Detectives said they believed the three men were connected to that apartment and one next door, though it was unclear whether any of the men resided at the apartment complex.
Shosted said the men claimed to be part of a street gang called the "Taliban Blood Gang," and officers recovered two pistols along with stolen property during their arrests Thursday.
Larsen characterized the arrests as a "holiday gift."
"Just the whole weight has been, you know, lifted off of me and my family," she said. "I just was so angry that somebody can just take away your life like that."