Crimetracker: man arrested for "prank" robbery, charged with disorderly conduct

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Knoxville police rushed to Walgreens on Broadway Street near Woodland Avenue around 3:30 a.m. after employees called 911, saying a man walked into the store wearing a blue ski mask with his hand in his pocket like he had a gun. That man - John Austin - asked to use the bathroom and when workers told him the restrooms were closed at night, he left.

Officers found Austin walking about a block away on Coker Avenue with a friend. He was holding the blue ski mask. He eventually told police that his friend had dared him to wear the mask inside the store to see how employees would react.

"Oh my gosh! Are you serious? Okay yeah, that's not cool," said Danielle Nicely, a Walgreens customer.

"Whether he made any type of gestures towards illegal activity or not, still he looked suspicious and he should know that he'd be taken that way," said Stacey Comer, also a customer.

Austin's friend - identified only as "Murphy" in the police report - denied he dared Austin to wear the mask into the store, and said he was just riding around with him because Austin was driving him to an interview later in the morning. Either way, no one thinks the prank was funny:

"What if someone had a panic? What if someone had a gun? An officer could have shot him - anything could have happened," said customer Debra Lowery.

"You can't do that. Because then you're basically playing with law enforcement. Because again, he should know that someone would call, so you're playing with their time," said Comer.

Austin is charged with disorderly conduct. He's due in court Wednesday morning.

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