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Willington armed robbery suspects busted after running out of gas

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WILLINGTON — Three suspects were arrested after robbing a man at gunpoint at a highway rest stop early Saturday.

Troop C dispatchers received notification of the armed robbery having taken place at an Interstate 84 rest area, located between exits 69 and 70 in the eastbound direction.

The victim told police he was walking back to his vehicle from the restrooms at approximately 4 a.m. when he was approached by two black males. One of the subjects allegedly brandished a handgun and pointed it at the victim’s head, demanding his money and valuables.

In fear for his life, the victim says he acknowledged the threat and began handing over all of his cash, as well as a number of personal belongings.

While complying with the order, the second male suspect suddenly sprayed the victim in the face with a can of pepper spray. They then ran to a waiting nearby vehicle, which sped off in an easterly direction down the highway.

As Troop C units descended on the scene, a BOLO, or “be on the look-out,” alert was transmitted to surrounding local law enforcement agencies and state police in both Connecticut and Massachusetts.

A short time later, troopers on I-84 discovered a disabled Jeep Liberty in the breakdown lane, just west of the Massachusetts state line, near exit 74. The vehicle, bearing Alabama license plates, was occupied by a lone black female, who told police she ran out of gas.

Officers questioning the woman quickly noticed evidence pertaining to the armed robbery, including a loaded, high-capacity magazine, in plain view inside of the vehicle.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts State Police patrols encountered two black males on foot, east of the Connecticut state line, who claimed they were urgently searching for a gas station. Referring to their BOLO alert, the troopers realized their descriptions fit the suspect descriptions from the armed robbery and got the pair to voluntarily return to their vehicle in Connecticut.

After interviewing the group on scene, more incriminating evidence was discovered. Additionally, a search of the highway between their location and the rest stop turned up other items stolen from the victim. All three suspects were eventually arrested and transported to the Troop C barracks in Tolland.

Walter Kirksey, 19, and Benjamin Cooper, 27, both of Birmingham, AL, underwent fingerprint processing and were charged with 1st Degree Robbery, 2nd Degree Larceny and both possession of a high-capacity magazine and carrying a firearm without a permit. Kirksey was also hit with additional counts that included 1st Degree Reckless Endangerment, Commission of a Felony with a Firearm, and Threatening.

The female occupant, Karanda Clemons, 23, of Roxbury, MA, was charged with 1st Degree Conspiracy to Commit Robbery, 2nd Degree Conspiracy to Commit Larceny and Tampering with Evidence.

The suspects were transported to a nearby Connecticut Department of Corrections facility and each were subsequently held on a $250,000 bond. They are scheduled to appear in Rockville Superior Court on August 15.

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