Crime & Courts

Fingerprints on potato chip bag helped police catch QuikTrip robber armed with BB gun

A Wichita man who was armed with a BB gun when robbing a QuikTrip was caught after he left police and FBI agents a clue on a bag of potato chips.

Willie Smith, 38, pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to one count of robbery, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a news release. As part of the plea deal, Smith admitted that he robbed the QuikTrip gas station in addition to an Express Mart convenience store and Pete’s Liquor.

Though Smith appeared to be armed with a revolver during each of the robberies, investigators later determined the weapon was a black BB gun, according to court documents. Police said he was arrested after a SWAT standoff that came at the end of the three-day crime spree.

Smith had been released from state prison less than a week before the first robbery, police said.

The first robbery was at around 2:47 p.m. Oct. 14 at Express Mart, 565 S. Market. The robber went to a 7-Up cooler, put one drink in his pocket and took a second one to the cashier, an FBI agent wrote in an affidavit. After his debit card was declined, he returned both drinks to the cooler before giving the clerk a note demanding money.

The robber showed what appeared to be a handgun, and the clerk handed over about $100 in cash and two packs of cigarettes.

Wichita police investigators found that Smith, who wasn’t wearing gloves, left fingerprints on the handle to the pop cooler.

The second robbery was at around 9:15 p.m. Oct. 15 at Pete’s Liquor, 332 W. Harry. The robber went to the sales counter with a bottle of liquor. As the clerk rang up the alcohol, the robber pulled out what appeared to be a gun and demanded money.

The robber made off with over $100 in cash and also took the liquor bottle.

Early the next morning, the robber hit the QuikTrip store at 1532 S. Seneca. At around 2:55 a.m. Oct 16, the robber demanded money while brandishing what appeared to be a gun after his debit card was declined. The robber left with less than $100 in cash and two packs of Newport cigarettes.

Wichita police crime scene investigators found Smith’s fingerprints on a bag of potato chips he touched at the convenience store.

Later that day, Smith was arrested at a home in the 800 block of South Topeka after a three-hour standoff with a SWAT team, police said. Smith had been paroled Oct. 8, and the house where he was found was not the home address he gave his parole officer.

Kansas Department of Corrections records show Smith, who also went by the alias C-Side, has been in and out of prison for much of the past two decades. His most recent prior conviction was a 2016 theft while on parole in Sedgwick County, state records show.

Sentencing in the most recent robberies is scheduled for Aug. 26. Smith faces up to 20 years in federal prison and up to $250,00 in fines, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

During the course of the federal court case, a doctor found that Smith is mentally ill. His public defender wrote in court documents that he was diagnosed in May with schizoaffective disorder, intellectual disability disorder and unspecified personality disorder.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle