By Nick Somoski
The suspect, who remains unidentified, was described by Lansing Township police as an African-American male, approximately 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds.
He was wearing dark blue jeans and a red-hooded sweatshirt, and his face was covered by a Freddy Krueger mask. He stole $104, the total amount in the cash register.
Rooney Toney, a 31-year-old veteran, was standing behind the counter at the time. He was visibly shaken as he recalled the incident.
“I looked up expecting a customer and found a man in a mask pointing a gun in my face. Of course I was frightened,” Toney said. “My first thought was to scare him, so I began to open my jacket. The man looked at me and made me show him I did not have a weapon.”
Toney, who was born and raised in Iraq, said he had seen far worse things in his time serving in the military, but that “this is something you cannot really grasp until after it has happened.”
Toney was the only clerk working at the time; he was unharmed.
“The man kept demanding more money, but I kept telling him this was all we had,” Toney said. “He stared me in the eyes – dark, black eyes that I will never forget – and he seemed just as nervous as I was, until he finally took the cash I gave him and left.”
Toney saw the suspect head west on Grand River Avenue after the robbery. He believed he saw the man get into a car parked several buildings down the road. Police arrived to the scene within minutes of being called but were unable to track down the suspect.
Lansing Township Police Chief Kay Hoffman said DNA samples had been sent to the MSP Crime Lab in Lansing for further testing.
Before the robbery occurred, a man came in, walked around the store and bought a lottery ticket and a pack of cigarettes. He was an African-American man whom Toney said was a regular customer. While at the counter, he asked Toney how his night was going – and if the store had been robbed recently.
Fifty minutes later, Toney was being held at gunpoint.
The situation may be entirely coincidental, but it certainly adds fuel to the fire. In the last month, multiple armed robberies have occurred throughout the Greater Lansing area. The robbery Sunday was just one entry on a list that includes robberies at the Family Dollar in the 1600 block of West Mt. Hope Avenue (which occurred Sunday morning), a PNC Bank in Meridian Township, a 7-Eleven on East Jolly Road and a Speedway on East Michigan Avenue.
Toney did not believe the man who came in earlier that evening was the same man who robbed him, but he did consider the possibility that they were working together. This assumption would line up with one of the other robberies, in which two suspects were present.
In all of the robberies, the suspects were African American males carrying a silver handgun and wearing a face cover of some sort, according to police. Age, weight and height descriptions have varied; however, each description has been vague.
None of the suspects have been caught.
Connecting the dots
Hoffman said she is working with the other local police departments to connect the evidence, but no leads or tips have been reported that could push the investigation forward.
“The main problem with this case is that we don’t have an awful lot of description to go off of. We are looking into the possibility that these crimes may be related, but we cannot jump to conclusions,” Hoffman said.
Lansing Chief of Police Michael Yankowski agreed that although the possibility exists, a conclusion cannot yet be reached.
“Although there are matching characteristics throughout the suspect descriptions, there is no conclusive evidence at this time,” Yankowski said.
UPDATE: Edward Antoine Goforth, 24, and Shyeta Lepriece Wilson, 25, have been charged in connection to a string of robberies that have taken place in the Greater Lansing area over the last month and a half. Goforth was charged with seven felony counts, including two armed robbery counts and two counts of carrying a dangerous weapon with unlawful intent. Wilson was charged with three felony counts, including one count of carrying a concealed weapon.
It is unclear how many robberies they are responsible for. Pretrial hearings are scheduled for Oct. 15. Preliminary hearings are scheduled to begin Oct. 17 in the Ingham County District Court.