Armed robbery stymied by would-be victims” or “the feckless felon who left empty-handed”—either could have been the headline after a young Parkville man tried to rob the Parkville Sonic on Friday but ran away with nothing instead.
It was a crime that conjured up the ghost of Jesse James, the most famous outlaw in history, who was raised just down the road in Kearney.
The criminal suspect was eventually taken down by three undercover Platte County Sheriff’s vice officers who happened to “be at the right place at the right time,” the undercover officers told The Landmark.
On Friday at 1:23 p.m., a 19-year-old Parkville man entered the Parkville Sonic, at 8700 NW 63rd St., with a Western-style bandanna tied around and covering the lower half of his face (not unlike the James Gang uniform during the gang’s infamous train and bank robberies of the late 1800s).
After entering the drive-in, the alleged suspect, David Theiss, 19, of Parkville, reportedly ordered Brad Nichols, the Sonic general manager to “give me all the money!” said Lt. John Moyer, assistant chief of the Parkville Police Department.
Theiss did not brandish a weapon during the attempted robbery, but he had a 6-8 inch, wooden-handled kitchen butcher knife on him, Moyer said.
Theiss reportedly was shaking vigorously and appeared to be very nervous during the incident, said Moyer.
“After the suspect demanded the money, the manager yelled out for one of his cooks to come around to the front,” Moyer said. “The cook was a large man, a lot bigger than the robbery suspect. When the robbery suspect looked at the cook, the suspect turned and ran out of the store and sprinted around the corner.”
Theiss is about 5 feet, 9 inches tall, and weighs about 150 pounds, according to the Parkville Police. Theiss never got any money from the Sonic Drive-In.
“Apparently, he was desperate for cash. He lost his job about a month ago. He was living between two residences: his girlfriend’s home in Parkville and his brother’s home in Riverside,” Lt. Moyer said.
Eric Zahnd, Platte County Prosecutor, on Tuesday charged Theiss with attempted robbery in the second degree, a class C felony.
If convicted of the crime, Theiss faces a maximum sentence of 1 day to 1 year in the county jail or 1-7 years in the Missouri state penitentiary and/or a $5,000 fine, media liaison Jill Brockman told The Landmark on Tuesday.
Though the armed robbery was foiled, Theiss apparently conducted some prior planning. “The suspect was wearing two complete layers of clothing during the crime. He shed one layer while he was running away from the drive-in. The butcher knife was found in the pants of the suspect’s outer layer,” Det. Chad Phillips, one of the arresting officers, said.
Phillips, 32, is a Platte County Sheriff’s Department vice officer and a member of the elite Platte County Multi-Jurisdictional Enforcement Group (PACMEG). He has nine years of service on the force.
PACMEG specializes in counter-acting drugs, vice crimes, high risk tactical situations and scenarios in which uniformed police officers could be compromised because of their uniforms, said Capt. Frank Hunter, spokesman for the Platte County Sheriff’s Department. Phillips and fellow Platte County vice detectives, Tyler Polsgrove, 27, and Charles Wood, 33, were in Parkville on Friday handling separate investigations into a bank robbery and a narcotics case.
“We heard the call of ‘armed robbery in progress’ come over the radio,” Polsgrove said.
“We happened to be about five minutes away from the Sonic at the time, so we responded. The radio said that the suspect was last seen running behind the community center (to the south of the drive-in).”
The Platte County officers were quick to point out that all law enforcement think of themselves as members of a larger team.
“Anytime we hear something like that (crime in progress) over the radio, and we can be of assistance, we try to help,” Phillips said.
Dets. Phillips, Cosgrove and Wood arrived at the community center just a minute or two after the foiled robbery attempt. The vice officers spoke with a citizen, an eyewitness, who claimed to have seen the suspect just 30 seconds prior to the detectives’ arrival.
“We sprinted off after the robber. We got a pretty good workout,” Cosgrove said. The officers had to climb over a chain leak fence, sprint across an open field and then charge into a woodline before they located the suspect, who was sitting in the backyard of a house on Bell Street.
“He was obviously our guy. He was out of breath, covered in mud, and sweat was dripping off him,” Cosgrove said.
The suspect, who turned out to be David Theiss, initially told the officers that he was coming from home and had nothing to do with the foiled robbery but that he had seen another person running away from the crime scene.
Theiss reportedly did not comply with the officers’ demand that he assume a prone position on the ground. Det. Phillips leveled his service weapon at Theiss, who then complied with the officers’ demand.
Theiss then resisted arrest slightly and had to be overpowered by the vice officers, they said.
Dets. Tyler and Cosgrove found Theiss’s discarded clothing in the woodline.
Parkville police took over the case following their department’s arrival on the scene. Parkville is the lead agency since the crime occurred in their municipal jurisdiction. Theiss reportedly changed his story again, telling officers that one to two other people assisted him in the robbery attempt, Phillips, Cosgrove and Lt. Moyer said.
Later Friday evening, Theiss confessed to the crime to Parkville police officers. “It was a very well done case. It was well coordinated between multiple agencies. It worked out very well,” Lt. Moyer said.
The suspect is being held in the Platte County Detention Center on a cash-only bond of $25,000.