Man accused of fleeing police, crashing on riverbank now charged in robbery at Motel 6; woman charged in same case

photo by: Sara Shepherd

A tow truck pulls a truck up the embankment of the Wakarusa River near the bridge at East 1400 Road, Wednesday, May 2, 2018. The truck was involved in a prolonged police chase that began near downtown Lawrence.

The man arrested after a police chase that ended on the banks of the Wakarusa River is now also charged with last week’s armed robbery at Motel 6 in North Lawrence.

Theoplis L. Ellis, 27, of Kansas City, Mo., was booked into jail Wednesday night and charged Thursday in Douglas County District Court with aggravated robbery, for allegedly stealing an iPhone from a man while armed with a gun, and criminal possession of a weapon, both felonies, in the April 23 robbery. In the same complaint, he’s also charged with two counts of fleeing police, felonies, and two counts of reckless driving, misdemeanors, in connection with the police chases on Wednesday.

A woman also was arrested and charged in the same robbery.

Tyese N. Johnson, 29, of Lawrence was arrested Wednesday in North Lawrence — before the police chases — and charged Thursday with aggravated robbery plus conspiracy to commit aggravated robbery by allegedly “luring” the victim, according to her charges.

Both appeared, via video from the jail, before Judge James George Thursday afternoon. The judge set Ellis’ bond at $150,000 and Johnson’s bond at $75,000.

The robbery reportedly occurred shortly before 4:40 p.m. April 23 in one of the guest rooms at Motel 6, 1130 N. Third St. According to preliminary information from police, someone pointed a gun at the victim and took “an item.” No one was hurt.

Police on Wednesday said Ellis was taken into custody after a chase that started downtown and ended with Ellis driving off Kansas Highway 10, through a field and over an embankment sloping into the Wakarusa River just south of Lawrence.

Police said Ellis sped away from officers earlier, too, but that chase was called off for safety reasons when he headed for downtown.

At the time, police said Ellis was suspected in a previous robbery but did not confirm which one.

Prosecutor Kate Duncan Butler of the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday that Ellis was on federal parole when the crimes in Lawrence were committed.

Ellis previously was charged in a 2012 drug case, along with more than four dozen co-defendants, in Kansas federal court.

According to an order to keep him detained while the case was pending, Ellis — 21 at that time — appeared to be a person of “poor character” who had five children by multiple women, a “significant” criminal record, history of “assaultive behavior” and prior failure to comply with conditions of release. The order also said he tried to elude arrest in that case.

He ultimately pleaded guilty and was convicted of conspiring to manufacture, possess and distribute crack and cocaine between 2009 and 2012, a felony, according to a judgement in the case. At his sentencing in 2015, Ellis was ordered to serve more than six years in prison followed by five years supervised release with no drugs, alcohol or guns.

Federal Bureau of Prisons records indicate he was released in January of this year.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office declined to release mugshots of Ellis and Johnson to the Journal-World.