Police: drugs were motivation behind string of armed robberies
Investigators say drugs motivated suspects to commit a series of armed robberies in the Green Bay area.
"If you're aware of what's going on in our society now, you can probably guess it's related to ongoing issues that people have in their lives that they need money for on a daily basis," said Commander James Runge, Green Bay Police.
In each crime, a knife-wielding suspect entered a fast food restaurant or store and got away with money. In some cases, the suspect forced employees into a cooler.
"At each location, a small amount of money was taken, between $200 and $300. These suspects face a possible maximum of 40 years imprisonment for each offense," Runge says.
Green Bay Police have identified the suspects as:
Joshua James Way, 25, Seymour: charged with Armed Robbery (two counts) and False Imprisonment (two counts). The court ordered bond set at $100,000.
Jeffrey William Gross, 34, De Pere: charged with Armed Robbery, False Imprisonment, Resisting or Obstructing an Officer. The court set Gross's bond at $35,000.
Darrin K. Hill, 28, Oneida: charged with Armed Robbery, False Imprisonment, Bail Jumping. The court set Hill's bond at $100,000.
The suspects were arrested on Dec. 30 in Seymour.
Two of the suspects were taken into custody by the Brown County Sheriff's Office following a robbery at a Subway restaurant on Cardinal Lane in Howard. A knife-wielding man in a ski mask forced an employee into a freezer during the crime.
The third suspect was not involved in the Howard robbery but taken into custody for other crimes.
Officers say Way committed the robberies and Hill and Gross acted as getaway drivers.
A criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News states officers had been conducting surveillance on Way's home in Seymour on Dec. 29, the night the Howard Subway was robbed.
Officers say a vehicle they identified as being used in the robbery arrived at the home after the crime. Two people got out of the vehicle. Jeffrey Gross drove away and was later taken into custody during a traffic stop.
The complaint says surveillance video shows Gross driving the vehicle and dropping Way off at the Howard Subway. Gross didn't enter the restaurant during the robbery, but remained parked outside.
Gross was interviewed by investigators with the Brown County Sheriff's Office.
"I know I can get a lwayer, but I'd rather not do any of that," Gross told investigators.
He went on to tell authorities that Joshua Way asked him for a ride to Green Bay because Way needed cash. They ended up at the Subway on Cardinal Lane. Gross initially claimed he didn't know he was driving a getaway car.
Investigators doubted Gross's story, and began to press him. They took notice that he seemed to know details about the crime.
They learned that Gross and Way had made a stop at a "buddy's house" after the robbery. Gross admitted that after the robbery, the duo made a stop at a "buddy's house" to get opiates. "He [Gross] ultimately admitted to snorting Percocet and getting a couple of pills and $20 cash for driving," reads the complaint.
Eventually, Gross admitted to knowing about the robbery, according to the complaint.
During the interview, police arrested Joshua Way at his home in Seymour.
Darrin Hill, meanwhile, told authorities that Way had asked him to drive for some robberies. Hill said he had struggled with a heroin addiction, and Way told him it was a way to get money for drugs.
Hill detailed driving for Way during the Dec. 21 robbery of a Subway on W. Mason Street.
"Josh got out, ran inside Subway and robbed them. He stuck the clerk in the freezer and told her to not come out till he was gone. I only got some cigarettes, $20 and a little smoke out of it. Josh later bought 2 pts of heroin for $80 with that money. I told Josh I wasn't driving for him anymore," reads Hill's statement to police.
That's where Jeffrey Gross entered the picture, Hill says.
Hill also told authorities that he gave Way a ski mask and knife that was used in the Dec. 26 armed robbery of a Hardee's restaurant in Green Bay, and told them where they could find the clothes and the weapon.
During a news conference, officers said the arrests were possible thanks to local agencies working together and sharing information. Ashwaubenon Public Safety investigator Bob Messer developed names of potential suspects. One of those suspects was arrested in the robbery investigation.
"He shared that with us immediately and we worked with Bob to develop that and that led us in the right direction," Runge says.
It's believed the trio scoped out the businesses they planned to rob.
"I think at some point they got a little lucky on some of the locations. Some had malfunctioning cameras. Some had, they entered or exited where there was not coverage, some the camera quality was poor," Runge says. "I think there was potential they were doing their own surveillance prior to doing the robberies, and so they were kind of looking for cameras. All that comes into play."
Runge says his detectives have a lot of work ahead of them.
"I think there's probably eight detectives working on it today as well as our forensics people," Runge says. "There's a bunch of search warrants that have to be written, a bunch of video that's got to go through, and then all that information has to be analyzed to try to put each person at each location."
Green Bay Police Chief Andrew Smith stressed the importance of cracking this case.
"City of Green Bay had 66 total robberies last year in the whole city, all year long," Smith says. "This guy, we think, did about six of them. That's nearly 10 percent of all our robberies were committed by this group of individuals. So we're really happy they're in custody."
Here's a timeline of recent robberies in which a suspect showed a knife. Again, police are still investigating whether or not the same suspects are responsible for all the crimes.
--Dec. 5: a man with a knife robs a Cousins Subs store on W. Mason Street in Green Bay.
--Dec. 10: a man with a knife robs a Subway in Ashwaubenon.
--Dec. 11: a suspect uses a knife to rob a Dollar General store on S. Military Avenue in Green Bay.
--Dec. 11: a man enters a Shell station at 841 Main Ave in De Pere and threatens a clerk with a knife. The man gets away with cash.
--Dec. 18: a man with a knife robs a Burger King restaurant at 1005 S. Military Avenue in Green Bay.
--Dec. 21: a man with a knife robs a Subway restaurant at 1007 W. Mason Street in Green Bay.
--Dec. 26: a man with a knife holds up the Hardee's restaurant at the corner of West Mason Street and Packerland Drive in Green Bay. The suspect gets away with cash.
--Dec. 27: a man with a knife robs a Subway on University Avenue in Green Bay.
--Dec. 28: a man with a knife robs a Dollar General store on W. Wisconsin Ave in Appleton.
--Dec. 29: a man with a knife robs a Subway on Cardinal Lane in Howard.