URBANA — A Champaign man who told police he robbed a downtown Champaign restaurant Wednesday because he was hungry and “dope sick” has been charged with aggravated robbery.
Gregory Lee Gates, 54, who listed his address as the C-U at Home Phoenix Drop-In Center at 70 E. Washington St., C, is accused of robbing an employee of Kohinoor Indian Restaurant, 6 E. Columbia St., C, about 11 a.m. while implying that he had a gun.
Assistant State’s Attorney Lindsey Clark said the victim told police he did not see a gun but said the robber touched his chest and told him that if he didn’t let him have the money, he would shoot him.
Surveillance video showed the robber removing cash from the register as the employee stood by. The robber also took a computer.
An officer who was on patrol about a block from the restaurant later Wednesday saw a man matching the description given by the victim. The officer said he was wearing the same clothing as the person on the surveillance video.
Officers identified him as Gates, and he admitted to them that he had committed the robbery because he was hungry, “dope sick” and needed something. He said he was homeless and tired of the men’s shelter. He denied having a gun.
Police searched his living area and found the computer, a charging cord and $1,400 cash, Clark said.
Restaurant owner Ujjwal Ghimire told The News-Gazette that the employee, who appeared to remain calm as the robber methodically emptied the cash register, was doing OK.
“Luckily, no one got hurt,” said Ghimire, who said he was hurting from the loss of what he believed to be more than $2,500 during a time when his business is struggling due to the pandemic.
“We’re barely surviving,” he said. “Champaign-Urbana, it’s our family. We’ve lived here almost 15 years and never had an experience like this.”
Despite the holdup, Ghimire feels the location is safe.
“The location is really good,” he said. “We’re not in the middle of downtown. There’s lots of parking, and the landlord is good.”
Clark said because Gates has multiple prior convictions dating to 1989, including five for robbery in Lake County, he faces sentencing as a Class X felon. That would mean a mandatory prison term of between six and 30 years if he’s convicted.
Judge Adam Dill set Gates’ bond at $50,000 and told him to return to court Jan. 5.