Monday, January 12, 2015

Police: Food, wallet & purse tie men to Bristol Twp. armed robberies

Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2015

On the witness stand the two men told similar stories about the night they and their friends were robbed at gunpoint roughly a half hour and 5 miles apart.
Jeremiah Longo recalled how one of the four robbers waved the gun around a lot, and pointed it at him after ordering him to empty his pockets including his smartphone and wallet. His girlfriend was ordered to hand over her pink XOXO purse.

Tyler James remembered at least three men — one with a gun — ordered him and his friends to sit on a bench at Indian Creek Park and empty their pockets. One suspect pressed a gun against his friend’s neck and, he believes, his neck as well.
But the most striking similarity between the stories the men told Tuesday at preliminary hearings for four Bristol Township men accused of robbing six people at gunpoint on Oct. 26 was neither man could provide a detailed description of the suspects.
Maurice Towner Jr. and Quashaad Rodney James, both 19, and Damaire Wallace and Terrell Laron Walker, both 18, are each charged with six counts each of felony robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and other related offenses in connection with the robberies.
Bristol Township police allege the four robbed Longo and his girlfriend shortly before 3 a.m. while they walked home to the Glen Hollow Apartments in the 1100 block of Newportville Road before getting inside a dark colored sports utility vehicle.
But Longo testified he couldn’t remember much beyond at least two of the men wore hoodie sweatshirts and the one with the gun had a dark-colored hoodie.
“I didn’t get a good look at them. I kept my eyes on my lady,” Longo added.
“You cannot identify any of these people,” attorney John Fioravanti said, motioning to the defendants.
“No,” Longo replied.
About a half hour after the first armed robbery, police say four people were robbed at gunpoint in the Indian Creek section of Bristol Township. The quartet was walking home after buying food at the Wawa on Emilie Road when they were approached by three men, James testified.
The men threatened to shoot the four if they moved from the park bench, James testified.
During the robbery, he heard what sounded like a punch and saw a friend holding his face in his hands, James said. He also saw a suspect hold a gun against his friend’s neck. James also testified he was punched in the head and an object — he believed was a gun — pressed against his neck.
The next thing he heard was running, James said. He looked up and the suspects were gone. The group immediately went to a home and called police.
But what eyewitnesses lacked in suspect detail, Bristol Township police made up for in evidence.
Bristol Township police Officer Dennis Leighton testified that not long after the second robbery, he pulled over a dark-colored car that matched a description broadcast over the Bucks County Radio Dispatch as involved in a robbery on Colonial Avenue. 
The location is about four miles from the Glen Hollow Apartments and three miles from Indian Creek.
Inside the car, the officer testified he saw a pink XOXO purse on the floor and a checkered men’s wallet in the rear of the vehicle. Both items were later identified as belonging to Longo and his girlfriend.
Bristol Township Detective William O’Keefe also testified that when he executed a search warrant on the car two days after the robberies, he found four breakfast sandwiches, two Sour Patch candy bags and pumpkin cannoli dip — the same food items that James testified he bought at the Wawa and the robbers took. O’Keefe also testified that he found a brown Airsoft pistol in the Ford Escape.
The attorneys representing the men, though, argued the charges against their clients should be dismissed citing the prosecution’s failure to prove any of their clients were involved in either robbery as well as other discrepancies.
“It comes down to identification, not mere participation,” attorney Louis Busico said. “You didn’t hear the word male, African American, white or black. It’s not enough.”
But Bucks County prosecutor Jonathan Long countered that evidence showed two armed robberies occurred the same day and that items from the robberies were found in the car the men were pulled over in.
“It’s not that much of a stretch your honor to think these guys did it,” Long added.
District Judge Joanne Kline agreed with the prosecutor, holding the four men for trial in Bucks County court on all charges. The defendants are all free after each posting 10 percent of $50,000 bail each.

Jo Ciavaglia: 215-949-4181; email: jciavaglia@calkins.com; Twitter: @jociavaglia

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