A Halifax County Sheriff’s Office investigation of an Enfield sweepstake robbery in 2016 helped contribute to a federal indictment and sentencing of a Rocky Mount man to 17 years in prison and five years of supervised released Tuesday.
While named in an eight count indictment — the seventh count related to the September 2016 heist of Lucky Dollar on Highway 481 — Darius Coty Whitaker, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of brandishing a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence, Robert J. Higdon, United States attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, said in a press release Tuesday.
Lieutenant Robert Hale of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office, who investigated the original Enfield robbery with a former investigator, said today, “I think our case assisted in the (overall) investigation along with Rocky Mount and Nash and others. Once it all got put together it made a good case for the feds.”
In his statement Tuesday, Higdon notes the case was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Nash County Sheriff’s Office, Rocky Mount Police Department, and the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorney James Kurosad prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States and Senior United States District Judge Malcolm Howard Jr. sentenced Whitaker in Greenville.
The count related to Enfield robbery states Whitaker used actual and threatened force to rob the establishment on September 15, 2016.
In the statement, Higdon said an investigation conducted by the Rocky Mount Police Department determined Whitaker, armed with a handgun, robbed four businesses in the Rocky Mount area from September 6 to September 15 of 2016.
On September 19 of that year an anonymous caller informed the RMPD that Whitaker appeared to be the suspect in a surveillance video depicting one of the robberies.
On September 23 of that year he confessed to law enforcement officials that he committed the four robberies because he was looking for money to buy cocaine.
He further admitted, according to the statement, he had previously stolen the two firearms he used during the robberies.
The evidence showed that a Dollar Tree employee of the store on Cobb Corners was approaching her vehicle in the parking lot when Whitaker confronted her and demanded she give him the store’s money.
When the clerk told him she did not have any money, he pulled a stolen handgun from his waistband, pointed it at her, and threatened her with bodily harm.
After rifling through her pocketbook and not finding any money, he stated, “I know your name, if you call the cops, I’ll come back for you.”
Armed with a stolen and loaded .38-caliber revolver, he entered Marathon Gas Station in Battleboro and jumped over the counter.
He pointed the firearm at the store clerk’s head and ordered that he open the cash register. As Whitaker began to approach the register, the clerk grabbed Whitaker’s firearm. A ground struggle ensued, during which Whitaker hit the employee several times with his fist and also discharged a firearm round that struck the floor.
The employee then bit Whitaker, causing him to drop the firearm.
During the altercation, another store employee activated the security alarm. Whitaker stole the clerk’s cellphone, identification card, and credit card, before fleeing the scene.
Higdon said in the statement the case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement “and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone.”