Crime & Courts

Police: Suspect in Derby robbery, shooting may be linked to other robberies (+video)

The 25-year-old man accused of robbing an AT&T store and shooting a customer in Derby on Tuesday morning could be responsible for as many as five other robberies in the Wichita area this year, authorities said.

The suspect, identified in law enforcement documents as James Michael Phillips, is “a person of interest” in robberies at three phone stores in Wichita and two more in the metropolitan area, Wichita police Lt. James Espinoza said.

“Some of these cases happened several months ago,” Espinoza said. “We’re gathering all the facts, and we’ll see what we come up with.”

Phillips is being held without bond in the Sedgwick County Jail after being booked on suspicion of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, three counts of aggravated kidnapping and one count each of aggravated robbery, fleeing and eluding a tire deflation device and criminal damage to property.

He is suspected of attempting to rob the AT&T store at Rock Road and Madison in Derby shortly after 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Two employees and a customer were in the store, and a confrontation broke out. The robber shot the customer more than once before fleeing.

AT&T employees called 911 and described the man’s vehicle to police. Derby officers spotted it near K-15 and Madison, about a mile and a half away. They chased the vehicle north on K-15 and into south Wichita.

Phillips is accused of firing shots at a pursuing Derby police officer on K-15 on the north end of town, Derby police Chief Robert Lee said.

“We have not found any” bullet strikes on the officer’s patrol car, Lee said.

The officer was not injured, and he did not return fire, officials have said.

As other law enforcement agencies responded to the chase, a Wichita police officer placed spike strips on K-15 near Pawnee. Phillips saw the spike strips and swerved to avoid them, police said, but in doing so, he slammed head-on into the officer’s patrol car. The officer was outside the car and was not injured.

Phillips was taken into custody and was returned to the scene of the shooting so AT&T employees could confirm his identity.

The 60-year-old woman who was shot at the store remains in critical condition at a hospital, Lee said. She lives in rural Sedgwick County.

Reach Stan Finger at 316-268-6437 or Follow him on Twitter: @StanFinger.

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