Affidavit: Robbers wrapped store employees in duct tape, threatened to shoot them; Lawrence police used surveillance dragnet to ID suspect

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World

The T-Mobile store at 4801 Bauer Farm Drive is pictured on Feb. 3, 2023.

“Pop whichever one moves first,” one robber said to another before duct-taping the hands, feet and mouths of two employees during an armed robbery last spring at a Lawrence cellphone store, according to a victim’s statement in a recently released police affidavit.

A suspect was arrested in connection with the incident, which occurred on April 2, 2022, at the T-Mobile store at 4801 Bauer Farm Drive, as the Journal-World reported. A man who police believe frequently travels from Lawrence to Illinois, Darien Khalil Chambers, 29, was apprehended in October and charged with two felony counts of aggravated robbery with a handgun and two felony counts of kidnapping, according to charging documents.

According to the sworn affidavit in support of Chambers’ arrest, victims told police that around 7:45 p.m., just before the store was set to close, two armed individuals entered, both in full black attire, including sunglasses and face masks, and wearing blue surgical gloves. The first individual, believed to be a man, entered the store, drew a firearm and ordered two employees, who were in the store alone, to go to the back room. The second individual, as yet unidentified, was believed to be a woman based on body type and voice.

The male suspect demanded that the employees open the safe in the backroom and give him the keys to the front door and cash register drawers, which the employees did, according to the affidavit. The man told the female suspect, who was also holding a firearm, to “pop whichever one moves first” as he went back to the front of the store to turn off the lights and open the cash registers, the victims told police.

The male suspect then returned and went to empty the safe. He wrapped each employee in duct tape, with their arms bound to their body and their feet bound together.

The two robbers began filling white trash bags with cellphones from the safe. The witnesses estimated they took somewhere between 80 and 100 phones. After the safe was empty, the male suspect then duct-taped the employees’ mouths shut and taped them to their chairs, according to the affidavit.

“I’m sure someone will come get you,” the male suspect said as the robbers left.

About five minutes later, a police officer entered the store and announced himself. The officer had responded to a report of two individuals carrying white bags full of phones out of the store. The officer heard muffled yelling in the back of the store and saw that the cash registers were open and empty. The officer went to the door leading to the back room, but it was locked. One of the bound and gagged store employees was able to hop over to the door and managed to open it, according to the affidavit.

Lawrence detectives then began collecting video surveillance footage from the cellphone store, traffic cameras and surrounding businesses. Detectives believed the car to be a white Subaru with a distinct grille and covered license plates on the front and back of the vehicle. Police collected surveillance video of the suspects stopping to cover the tags at a nearby business. Eventually, police traced a vehicle matching the car’s description across the city until it reached a point where the car’s license tag was no longer covered, and they connected the car to Chambers based on a prior traffic stop.

Detectives traced Chambers’ work and address history and found that he formerly worked at multiple cellphone retailers and had listed addresses in Nashville, Tennessee, and Bolingbrook, Illinois.

Lawrence police then found a cellphone number that they believed to belong to Chambers, and after securing a warrant they tracked Chambers’ cellphone location throughout Lawrence on April 1, but cellphone data showed he was in Illinois on April 3. Chambers’ cellphone location data was turned off on April 2, during the time of the robbery. Chambers’ cellphone returned to Lawrence by April 5, according to the affidavit.

Police later tracked Chambers to a Lawrence residence that he frequented that was later said to be his girlfriend’s. On Oct. 10, 2022, police believed Chambers was at the apartment, executed a search warrant and took him into custody. In his vehicle, police said they found a Glock 17 handgun, blue latex gloves and black boots. Inside the apartment where Chambers was found were various cellphone accessories matching the description of items taken from the store, the affidavit said.

Chambers gave police a statement about the robbery and said he had nothing to do with it, the affidavit said. After changing his story a few times, he said he was staying at a hotel that night with a man named “Stacy Jeff” and some friends, two men and a “bigger female about 6′ tall who played volleyball.” Chambers said he went to a party that night, and Stacy showed up a little later, but Chambers fell asleep at the party and when he woke up around 8 p.m. his keys had been moved, according to the affidavit. Chambers could not say why his car had been seen on cameras near the cellphone store the night of the robbery, according to the affidavit.

Chambers was then booked into the Douglas County Jail. He was released on a $30,000 surety bond a few days after his arrest. Chambers is being represented by defense attorney Hatem Chahine, and he is next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 14 for a status conference.

Allegations in an arrest affidavit have not been proven in court but are used by law enforcement only to demonstrate probable cause for an arrest.

The female suspect in the robbery has not been identified, and Lawrence police have asked anyone with information about this incident to contact dispatch at 785-832-7509.


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.