HAMMOND — Two men are facing federal charges in connection with Tuesday’s armed robbery of a Munster cellphone store that led to an officer-involved shooting in Gary.
Deshalone Damien Davis and Vondell Henry Jr., both 20 and of Gary, have been charged with robbery under the federal Hobbs Act and with brandishing a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, court records show.
The FBI has taken over the case, which had previously been under the Munster Police Department’s jurisdiction, FBI Special Agent Bob Ramsey said.
Investigators are looking into whether these men are connected to a string of other, violent cellphone store robberies in the Region, Ramsey said.
A 17-year-old, whose name is being withheld because of his juvenile status, has also been charged in the case, he said.
A fourth suspect , a 15-year-old boy, was hospitalized earlier this week after being shot by a Gary police officer in the incident. A fifth suspect remains at large.
Suspects flee Munster to Gary
Munster police were dispatched at 5:47 p.m. Tuesday to The Cellular Connection, an authorized Verizon retailer at 822 Ridge Road, in reference to a robbery that had just occurred, court records show.
Surveillance video revealed four black men entered the store and robbed the business and customers of multiple cellphones and cash. Two suspects brandished firearms during the robbery, records said.
A witness told police they saw a silver Nissan with an Ohio license plate involved in the robbery.
A short time later, a police officer with knowledge of the investigation went to the area of West 15th Avenue and Burr Street and located the vehicle, according to the affidavit.
The driver, later identified as Henry, eventually parked in front of an apartment building near 19th Place and Hanley Street, where four men exited and fled westbound.
Henry followed the officer’s orders to lie on the ground, records show. Davis was located in the area and handcuffed, court records show.
Federal authorities have charged the two with violating the Hobbs Act, a federal law that prohibits a robbery or attempted robbery from affecting interstate or foreign commerce.
Teen suspect shot by police
A 15-year-old who allegedly pointed a weapon at law enforcement in the area of 19th Place and Hanley Street was shot by police and injured in the incident.
One weapon was found with the 15-year-old, police said. At least one other handgun was recovered from inside the vehicle, he added. Munster police are processing the vehicle for evidence, according to police.
No officers were injured.
The Lake County Sheriff's Department is investigating the shooting at the request of the Gary Police Department, sheriff's department spokesman Mark Back said. Police are still investigating whether any shots were fired at police, he said.
Results from the police-involved shooting will be forwarded to the Lake County Prosecutor's Office upon completion, per protocol, Back said. The prosecutor's office will determine what further action may be taken, he said.
Officers from Munster, Highland, Gary, Griffith and Indiana State Police, and the Lake County sheriff's helicopter responded to the scene in Gary, police said.
Witnesses saw same Nissan at T-Mobile store
The same silver Nissan was also spotted July 29 at a T-Mobile store with four or five black individuals inside wearing masks and hooded sweatshirts who appeared to drive by the business slowly and looking inside, according to the affidavit.
Witnesses say they saw one of the individuals exit the vehicle and try to open the door, but it was locked. The car immediately left the area, records show.
One witness told police she had “paid special attention to it because she saw media reports about previous armed robberies at cellphone stores.”
A computer check determined the vehicle was reported stolen from a Hertz Rental Car in Ohio.
According to court records, the vehicle appears to have been involved in similar, recent robberies in Hammond and Merrillville.