A burglary ended badly – for the burglars – when one of them left his cell phone at the scene and dropped a debit card during the escape.
This trail of evidence helped police arrest three Charlotte men who broke into a Cornelius gun shop last fall and took more than two dozen weapons. All three later pleaded guilty to one count of theft from a licensed firearms dealer
This week, U.S. District Judge Robert Conrad handed down a five-year prison stay to Maceo Royster, 21. Emmanuel Guy, 19, got three months less than that. Lacedric McMillon, 23 and the get-away driver in an escape that never actually got away, received 3 1/2 years.
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All took part in the October 2016 burglary of The Range at Lake Norman, prosecutors say. Court documents indicate that the group picked its target because a picture on the gun store’s website showed it did not have bars on its windows.
If only it were that easy.
On the drive north to Cornelius, Royster used his cell phone to pull up directions to The Range, which had closed for the night, documents say. Once the burglars reached the store, an unidentified co-conspirator used a hammer to break through a glass entrance, documents say. Once inside, Royster, Guy and their companion started grabbing guns and rifles – 25 in all – which they stuffed in laundry and duffle bags.
The plan began to fall apart from there.
Royster, who jail records indicate has been arrested at least a dozen times, dropped his phone in the store during the escape – the same phone that included the directions the burglars had used to get to the store in the first place.
Later, after eluding police during a high-speed chase, Royster left another bread crumb for police – this time his debit card – lying on the pavement of a neighborhood cul-de-sac where he and his companions were hiding.
When police appeared at the entrance to the street, the four men fled on foot into nearby woods. McMillon, the get-away driver, was the first to be arrested after he was chased down and bitten by a police dog.
Guy was caught when a Huntersville police cruiser passed him along a roadside making the long walk back to Charlotte.
Royster, he of the missing phone, borrowed one to call his girlfriend for a ride home. He later was identified by his co-conspirators, documents say.
Of the 25 weapons stolen, 22 were found in two bags recovered along the escape route. Prosecutors identified one of the guns as a highly regulated Kriss .45 caliber short-barreled rifle.