Criminal charges are piling up against two men who authorities say embarked on a brazen four-city robbing spree last fall.
The robberies spanned two weeks in Minneapolis, Apple Valley, Burnsville and Eagan, involving at least 11 victims, according to prosecutors.
Police say the robbers used a similar modus operandi in each case, often approaching people in their vehicles or on foot, flashing a weapon and then demanding their belongings under threat of violence.
"These individuals are responsible for numerous robberies and we are thankful they are now in custody and cannot victimize anyone else," Minneapolis police spokesman John Elder said Monday.
Prosecutors last week filed additional charges against two of the suspects, Jared Otha Washington, 27, and Daiquawn Michael Burrell-Smith, 21, who face multiple robbery, burglary and assault counts for their alleged roles in the string of strong-armed robberies.
The earliest incident in the spree was reported on Sept. 29 in the 3500 block of Aldrich Avenue N. in Minneapolis, according to court filings. The victims, a group of five friends and family members, told detectives that they were hanging out in the street, talking, when they were approached by two men, one of whom brandished a handgun with a laser sight. The gunman, thought to be Washington, stood watch, as Burrell-Smith allegedly rifled through the victims' pockets, taking cellphones, cash, bank cards, wallets and purses, police said.
The duo, and a juvenile suspect, were arrested during an Oct. 10 traffic stop in Apple Valley after allegedly sticking up four people in separate incidents across Dakota County. The day before, police said, Washington, Burrell-Smith and the juvenile robbed two people within a half-hour window in the north Minneapolis neighborhoods of Jordan and McKinley.
In the first incident on Oct. 9, which occurred just before 7 p.m. in the 2800 block of N. Emerson Avenue, authorities say the three suspects circled a woman's car on foot before one of them unlocked the car doors by reaching through an open window on the passenger's side.
When Washington pulled out a black handgun and demanded her belongings, the woman resisted, telling the alleged robbers, "Go ahead and shoot me," she later told detectives. Police say that the suspects made off with her backpack containing a bank card, child support card and her Wisconsin driver's license.
Their next target, police say, was a man whose white 2015 Toyota Prius they carjacked at gunpoint in the 3300 block of Bryant Avenue N.
The three suspects were pulled over by Apple Valley police in the stolen car the following day and arrested; a search of the Prius turned up the woman's backpack, a credit card belonging to the second victim and four firearms, including a black 1911-style .45-caliber handgun believed to have been used in the robbery on Bryant and another handgun equipped with a laser gunsight, according to police. One of the guns had been reported stolen last September from Nashville, where Washington used to live, police said.
Criminal complaints charging each with first-degree aggravated robbery in connection with the stickups in Minneapolis weren't filed until last week. The men were initially charged on Oct. 12 with three counts of first-degree robbery, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of attempted first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree burglary in connection with Dakota County robberies. Washington, who was driving the stolen car, faces additional charges of theft and fleeing a peace officer in a stolen vehicle, court records show.
A third case related to the crime spree charges the men with four counts of first-degree robbery. It wasn't immediately clear if the juvenile suspect was charged. The juvenile isn't identified in court documents because of his age.
When they arrested the two men, Dakota County authorities had already been looking for Washington and Burrell-Smith in connection with at least four robberies earlier on Oct. 10.
Each used gun
Police said they were called at 4:56 p.m. that day for a reported armed robbery in which two suspects approached a man while he was sitting in a parked car outside of a retail store.
One of the robbers opened the driver's side door and stuck a black handgun into the victim's ribs, while the other jumped into the rear passenger seat and pointed a gun at the man's shoulder, according to police. The two suspects took the victim's iPhone, keys and wallet before fleeing in a white car, police said.
About 6:10 p.m., police say the suspects struck again, this time in neighboring Eagan, robbing a man who had been walking near Palisade Way and Cochrane Avenue. The victim said he was confronted by two gunmen who threw him to the ground and stole a backpack.
Police said that 15 minutes later, two men tried to rob a woman sitting in her car on Portland Avenue S. in Burnsville. The woman later told police two men tried yanking on the car's doors, which were locked. One of the men tapped with a gun on the driver's side window and said something to the effect of, "Get out or I'm going to kill you," a criminal complaint said. The woman started honking her car horn and the men fled.
Authorities said the case broke when a man called Apple Valley police about 6:40 p.m. to report that he had been followed home by a white car, the complaint said. When he pulled into his attached garage, two armed men followed him inside and took his cellphone and keys.
The victim activated a tracking app on his phone, allowing law enforcement to catch up to the suspects a short time later in a city parking lot, police said. But instead of pulling over, police said that Washington drove his vehicle into an oncoming police squad, injuring an officer.
The three suspects were later arrested.
Attempts to reach attorneys for the two men weren't successful on Monday.