Federal prosecutors have charged two men with a series of criminal violations stemming from the alleged theft of more than 100 firearms from a southwest Michigan sporting goods store.
According to a federal affidavit, the men allegedly blindfolded and handcuffed the store manager outside his Benton Harbor home, holding him at gunpoint until he revealed details about the store’s security, including including access codes, allowing the men to enter a Dunham’s Sports in Benton Harbor and fill the coolers with the guns stolen on the night of November 16.
Court documents filed Monday show Darnell Bishop, 33, and Dontrell Nance, 25, were both charged with robbery under a federal interstate commerce law, use of a firearm during of a felony, theft of firearms from a federally licensed dealer and knowingly possessing stolen firearms. crimes.
The maximum sentence for each charge ranges from ten years in prison to life imprisonment. The men’s defense attorneys were not listed in online court records as of press time.
In a news conference streamed online Tuesday, Mark Totten, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said both men were in custody. A first court appearance has not yet been scheduled.
“It’s no secret that we are facing an epidemic of gun violence across the country, across the state of Michigan and right here in Benton Harbor,” he said. “This epidemic is fueled by a massive influx of illegal guns into our communities.”
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An affidavit signed by a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) indicates that Bishop and Nance approached the store manager Dunham’s outside his home around 10 p.m. on the night of the 16th. november. told local police he was handcuffed and blindfolded while taken to his car, where the men questioned him at gunpoint about store security details .
Security footage showed a man disabling the security code and entering Dunham’s home around 10:40 p.m., according to the affidavit. Bishop admitted to participating in the robbery and told investigators he entered the store, the affidavit states. The document also states that footage shows the man, later identified by law enforcement as Bishop, taking two Yeti coolers from the store and filling them with firearms from the store. ATF investigators believe 123 handguns were seized from the store.
Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s Detroit Field Division, James Dier, said the value of the stolen handguns was nearly $100,000. Investigators obtained 122 firearms and, according to the file, Bishop told investigators two other firearms fell out of coolers while he was moving them.
Nance later said he stayed with the store manager during the robbery, according to the affidavit. The document also states that the manager told investigators that while being held against his will, one of the men attempted to use the manager’s CashApp account to send himself money, but was unsuccessful .
The alleged failed transaction proved to be a major tool for investigators to identify Nance, and eventually Bishop. Investigators, after reviewing the manager’s bank records, discovered an attempted transaction with a “Dontrell Nanc,” leading them to search Nance’s name in law enforcement records. There, they found a phone number for Nance that matched the CashApp account in the manager’s records. Nance had a prior conviction for armed robbery in 2016, according to the affidavit, placing him in the state’s law enforcement information network.
“This lead allowed law enforcement to begin surveillance of Nance at his location,” Totten said.
The next day, investigators monitored Nance at his home, where he and Bishop were seen moving the coolers into an SUV, according to the affidavit. Early in the afternoon, police executed a search warrant at the two men’s homes and vehicles, where coolers filled with weapons were found. Investigators also found a bag filled with tags matching the stolen firearms, the document states.
Both Bishop and Nance later admitted to participating in the robbery, according to law enforcement. According to the affidavit, Nance told investigators he did not hold the manager at gunpoint, but rather put his cell phone in a sock and held it near his head from the manager while he was blindfolded, making him believe he was being held at gunpoint. Nance told investigators he acted as a lookout for Bishop and another individual who participated in the robbery.
The ATF says approximately 35,000 firearms were stolen from federally licensed dealers in the United States between 2017 and 2021. That number represents only a small portion of the more than 1 million guns firearms stolen during this period, which represents weapons stolen during private thefts and during interstate commerce. .
Dier said firearms stolen from federally licensed dealers are typically sold to those who are prohibited from legally obtaining them.
“They are easily sold on the streets, there is a huge market of banned people,” Dier said. “There’s a whole litany of people who can’t buy these products legally, so there’s a black market.”
“They were meant for a quick sale, a quick buck, it’s the holidays…everyone needs money. In cases like this, people think it’s a win easy.”
The case was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip Green in Grand Rapids.
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