MORGAN PARK — Two employees of a Far South Side beauty supply shop were beaten and robbed at gunpoint Monday by a man and woman seeking an increasingly lucrative product on the black market: human hair.
Police said that a man believed to be between the ages of 18 and 20 and a woman in her 20s entered John's Beauty Supply at 11109 S. Western Ave. at 11:55 a.m., armed with a handgun and pepper spray, "which they used to spray an employee" before "robbing the store of cash and supplies."
One of the victims, a 21-year-old employee, said the two had come into the shop several times earlier Monday morning to apparently case the store, which was empty except for one other female employee.
"They came in like regular customers," the visibly shaken woman said between tears Monday afternoon outside the store. Inside, store merchandise that had been ripped off shelves could be seen scattered across the floor.
The man then pulled a handgun, pressed it to the first employee's stomach and forced her under threat of death to load hair and cash into bags. The woman sprayed the other employee in the face until she passed out. The robbers also stomped on both women and dragged the unconscious worker as she lay passed out on the floor.
"The guy dragged me down and stomped me and told me he was going to kill me if I didn't give him" the cash, the first worker said.
At one point, the female robber told her, "'I got your information and I got your ID. I know when you get off, and if you tell anybody, I'm gonna come back here and kill you,'" the worker said.
The robbers' main target was human hair, which the salon uses in extensions for its customers.
"They took a lot of hair," the worker said. She estimated its value at about $5,000.
The robbers also got away with her purse and cell phone and about $1,000 in store cash, she said.
Police said the woman who robbed the store was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and purple pants, while the man was wearing a red sweatshirt with a distinctive logo and orange pants.
This isn't the first time "top of the market" hair has been the target at John's Beauty Supply, said Shayna Crosby, another employee who arrived at the scene after the robbery.
About a year ago, robbers looking for hair had broken into an adjacent store, bore a 3½-foot hole into a wall and cut security alarm wire before stealing all the hair they could carry, Crosby and other employees of the strip mall said.
The thieves wanted the hair so badly they didn't even take money from the cash register, Crosby said.
Jeanette Battle, an office manager at Natural Instincts Physical Therapy and Wellness Center, which sits opposite John's Beauty Supply, remembered that early morning incident well.
"Hair is major," she said, adding that high-end versions of the product can easily sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars for just one set of extensions. "They knew exactly where to make the hole."
Battle said the woman who was sprayed in the face Monday afternoon could be seen being taken away by ambulance as police arrived. Police said she was taken to Little Company of Mary Hospital.