A tipster providing police with the name and cellphone number of a Newport News woman led investigators to identify and then arrest five people in Friday’s break-in at Southern Police Equipment and the theft of 32 firearms, court documents say.
Surveillance camera video from several nearby businesses also helped crack the case, including footage from F&F Auto Sales at 100 Turner Road that “captured the suspects breaking into the business,” according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Newport News, where the suspects lived and were arrested early Monday.
The suspects — two men, two women and a teenage girl — have been implicated in the early-morning burglary that netted the thieves 32 firearms, which authorities said were taken back to Newport News to sell.
Investigators have recovered at least five of the weapons from a room at the Economy Inn & Suites motel in Newport News. They include two Beretta M9A1 semi-automatic pistols, a Windham AR-15 .223 rifle, an H&K .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol and a Taurus PT845 semiautomatic pistol, according to an inventory of items seized.
“We’re ecstatic,” said Karen Allan Ballengee, owner of the store, formerly known as Southern Gun World, at 7609 Midlothian Turnpike. “We’re just thankful to really good law enforcement that the state of Virgina has got. We knew they would get them.”
The two male suspects — identified as Deshawn Shields, 19, and Xaiver S. Greene, 20 — allegedly broke into the business by accessing the roof and pushing in an air-conditioning unit within a window at the roof line. Court records describe it as a second-story window.
Once inside, the intruders used a hammer to smash open a display case, making off with 27 handguns. In addition, four assault-style rifles and one shotgun were taken from a showroom wall.
Ballengee said it appears the intruders cut power to her store — “they pulled the whole (electrical) box off the wall” — which disabled the alarm system.
“The alarms should have went off way before anybody ever even would have had a chance to get on the roof,” Ballengee said. “We didn’t know anything about (the break-in) until we got in Friday morning and found it.”
Ballengee said her store has “cameras everywhere,” and disabling the power did not affect the shop’s surveillance cameras, which run on a separate backup system, Ballengee said.
“The cameras are always working no matter what’s going on,” she said. “That’s what (the suspects) were not banking on.”
Ballengee said a “gorilla cage,” or air-conditioner security cage, is being installed in the upper-floor window through which the thieves entered.
In addition to Southern Police Equipment, investigators obtained surveillance video footage from F&F Auto Sales, which captured not only the suspects breaking into the gun store but also a dark-colored Dodge sedan traveling toward the 7-Eleven store at 121 Turner Road, according to a court affidavit.
Footage from the 7-Eleven cameras showed the same blue vehicle occupied by three females, and one of them can be seen talking on her cellphone, the affidavit says.
Video images then show the vehicle, a Dodge Avenger, leave the parking lot toward Midlothian Turnpike and turn into Captain D’s restaurant, which is next to F&F Auto and Southern Police Equipment. The video shows the vehicle circling the lot two times, and two suspects leave a treeline carrying items and loading them into the trunk, the affidavit says.
Additional footage from the Sunoco service station at 7559 Midlothian Turnpike shows the suspects’ vehicle leaving and heading east on Midlothian Turnpike.
Investigators started receiving tips soon after they released surveillance photos of the suspects, and one of those tips lead to Endiya Washington, 25, one of the three women. A tipster provided police with Washington’s general location and cellphone number, the affidavit says.
Investigators obtained Washington’s phone records and determined she made two calls that registered off a cell tower near Buford Road, about a quarter-mile west of the gun store. The calls were made at 3:41 and 3:42 a.m.
A tipster provided Washington’s home address and investigators determined the Dodge Avenger seen in the surveillance footage was registered to her, the affidavit says.
The same tipster who implicated Washington told police that the man captured carrying firearms in the Southern Police Equipment surveillance video lived at the same address as Washington. That led to investigators to Deshawn Shields.
Washington’s cellphone records indicated that she had called a phone registered to Shields, the affidavit says.
The tipster further advised that a woman named “Mariah” was a close associate of Washington’s, and investigators determined that Mariah’s cellphone number was in close proximity to the Economy Inn & Suites in Newport News. Police located Washington’s car there and a check of hotel records showed Mariah V. Walker, 22, as a registered guest.
Investigators searched her room, Washington’s car and a residence in the 4500 block of Marshall Avenue in Newport News where Washington, Walker and Shields lived. Those three, plus Greene, have been charged with burglary and grand larceny offenses.
Police said a fifth suspect, a teenage girl, also was involved but for now she is being held on unrelated charges. “We’re trying to determine her involvement in the case, but we do think she is involved,” said Chesterfield police Lt. Steve Grohowski.
Grohowski said Newport News police and U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents from Richmond and Norfolk assisted Chesterfield in the investigation.