URBANA — Two Champaign teens who a prosecutor said stole new guns from the Champaign Rural King last summer were arrested Monday by Champaign police.
Warrants had been issued Friday for the arrests of Jailyne Roberts, 18, of the 300 block of West Eureka Street and Joseph W. Tate, 19, of the 1400 block of Honeysuckle Lane for the Aug. 25 and Sept. 3 burglaries of the Rural King Supply store, 913 W. Marketview Drive.
A rifle was stolen in the first burglary and 24 handguns in the second.
In addition to the burglaries, First Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler charged Roberts and Tate with aggravated possession of stolen firearms, which could net them six to 50 years in prison if convicted.
"The explanation for this is it was all about money," Ziegler said. "It wasn't the guns they were after. It was about selling them for money."
The arrests came after a Feb. 14 News-Gazette story, about seven of the stolen handguns surfacing in five area crimes, produced more tips to police.
While no one was shot in any of those incidents, one of the recovered guns was used in a January carjacking and armed robbery in Urbana in which two men were beaten and robbed of cash.
Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet said Detective Kevin Olmstead has been actively investigating the gun thefts since the first break-in and had several names of suspects.
"He's done an awesome job getting people to come in, have a conversation, and get it all on audio and video," Griffet said of Olmstead's efforts.
Police got a major break on Feb. 11, when Roberts was arrested outside the Popeye's restaurant at 910 Bloomington Road, C, with one of the stolen handguns in his waistband. He had not previously come up as a prime suspect in the thefts, Griffet said.
Another man, Gabriel Chaney, 20, of Champaign, had allegedly displayed the loaded Ruger .357 to a 17-year-old boy inside the restaurant, then threatened to shoot him. Police arrested the pair outside the restaurant.
Despite police learning that Roberts had one of the Rural King handguns, Roberts was charged only with not having a firearm owner's identification card, a misdemeanor.
State's Attorney Julia Rietz said that was the appropriate charge at the time "because there wasn't any evidence he knew it was a stolen gun at the time."
"You have to prove there was knowledge it was a stolen gun. He has no prior convictions. There wasn't any indication (then) that he was involved in the original burglary," she said.
A week after his arrest, Roberts pleaded guilty to that misdemeanor charge, was sentenced to the eight days he had already served in jail and released.
Chaney remains jailed on charges of unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon and aggravated assault. He also faces the revocation of his probation for a 2012 attempted armed robbery conviction that involved a man being shot outside an Urbana car detailing business.
Roberts' arrest Monday was the third for him in the last three weeks. After his arrest outside Popeye's, Champaign police picked him up again on Feb. 20 at Central High School for the Rural King handguns heist. However, he was released two days later at the request of Rietz, who wanted police to strengthen the case for prosecutors before filing charges.
Police arrested him again there this morning. Tate made arrangements to meet Olmstead at a location in north Champaign.
The continued efforts of detectives led to the identification and interview of Tate, whose name had surfaced early in the investigation only as the initials J.T., according to Griffet.
Ziegler, who reviewed the Champaign police reports and drafted the charges, said police and prosecutors now have several facts to bolster their case, not the least of which is Tate's confession and his implication of himself and Roberts in both break-ins.
The prosecutor said Tate told police that he and Roberts acted alone in both burglaries, the second one of which occurred on Tate's 19th birthday.
The Aug. 25 burglary, according to what Tate told police, involved them breaking through the store's front glass door.
"What he says tracks with the surveillance video," Ziegler said. "They can't kick in the gun case so they grab the one rifle and take off."
The second burglary happened a little more than a week later.
"They come back for the second one, just the two of them, and one of them has a ball bat. The other had a sledge hammer that he got inside the store," Ziegler said.
Griffet said they entered the store that second time through an overhead door in what used to be the automotive area when the store was a Walmart.
The pair — as recorded on video — smashed the gun cases, stashed two dozen handguns in backpacks and took off. Alarms went off but they were gone by the time police arrived.
Although the intruders were masked in both break-ins, the surveillance video follows closely what police learned from Tate, according to Ziegler.
About a month after the second burglary, both Tate and Roberts were at an Urbana apartment where police found three of the stolen guns inside a toilet tank.
Urbana police went to a shots fired call in the 2400 block of Prairie Green about 2:40 a.m. on Sept. 30. In a hallway, officers could hear voices coming from an apartment.
"The officers also hear the sounds of what's probably a semi-automatic being racked," Ziegler said. "Inside the apartment, which is not where either Roberts or Tate live, they are there with several other people."
The prosecutor said Roberts was the youngest of the men present but didn't stand out at the time as a prime suspect in the Rural King burglaries.
"When they hit the place, he was there but didn't seem to be doing anything. The guns were found in the bathroom. His name got written down but I don't think anything pointed to him."
In fact, neither had any criminal background as juveniles and little as adults so they weren't high on the list of suspects, Ziegler said.
In addition to their presence at the Urbana apartment, the video surveillance from Rural King, and statements from both men, Griffet said, police have searched three homes. Those were a house in the 1400 block of Dobbins Drive, Champaign, where Roberts was living last summer; Roberts' family's current residence on West Eureka Street; and Tate's home on Honeysuckle.
They haven't found the other guns but did seize cellphones and cameras they hope might help them in the investigation, Griffet said.
Both teens are expected to be arraigned on Tuesday. They remain jailed in lieu of $500,000 bond each.
Burglars hit store again
CHAMPAIGN — As Champaign police continue to search for guns taken in two prior burglaries at the Rural King store in Champaign, they are also investigating yet another recent break-in at the business.
Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet said a man dressed in black clothing got in the store at 913 W. Marketview Drive about 12:10 a.m. Thursday but did not get what he was after.
"Our officers were called out there for an alarm. They found a broken window. They searched the building for several hours and processed it for evidence. They located video where they saw a person come in and try to steal rifles that were cable locked. He was unsuccessful," Griffet said.
The latest break-in came after police had identified two Champaign teens they believed responsible for Aug. 25 and Sept. 3 burglaries at Rural King.
Two dozen handguns were stolen Sept. 3, seven of which have been recovered. A single rifle was stolen the week before and Griffet is hopeful the person who has it will contact police.
"We know that this was sold locally and we'd like to identify the person and try to get the rifle back," he said.
"I believe they might have been misled in how they came to purchase it. We know someone who had a firearm owner's identification card bought it," he said.
"We're trying to prevent that person from having future problems."