Federal prosecutors have charged two men with a series of felony violations stemming from the alleged theft of more than 100 guns from a southwest Michigan sporting goods store.
According to a federal affidavit, the men are alleged to have blindfolded and handcuffed the store’s manager outside his Benton Harbor home, holding him at gunpoint until he revealed details about the store’s security, including access codes, allowing the men to enter a Dunham’s Sports in Benton Harbor and fill coolers with the stolen guns during the night of Nov. 16.
Court documents filed Monday show Darnell Bishop, 33, and Dontrell Nance, 25, have both been charged with robbery under a federal interstate commerce statute, using a firearm during a crime, stealing firearms from a federally licensed dealer and knowingly possessing stolen firearms, all felonies.
The maximum sentence for each charge ranges from ten years in prison to life imprisonment. Defense attorneys for the men were not listed in online court records as of writing.
During a press conference streamed online Tuesday, Mark Totten, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan, said both men were in custody. A first court appearance has not yet been scheduled.
“It is no secret that we are experiencing an epidemic of gun violence across the nation, across the state of Michigan and right here in Benton Harbor as well,” he said. “Fueling this epidemic is a massive influx of illegal guns into our communities.”
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An affidavit signed by a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), states Bishop and Nance approached the manager of the Dunham’s store outside his home close to 10 p.m. the night of Nov. 16. The manager told local police he was handcuffed and blindfolded while he was led to his car, where the men questioned him at gunpoint about security details at the store.
Security footage showed a man disabling the security code and entering the Dunham’s at around 10:40 p.m., according to the affidavit. Bishop admitted to participating in the robbery and told investigators that he entered the store, the affidavit states. The document also notes footage showed the man, later identified by law enforcement as Bishop, taking two Yeti coolers from the store and filling them up with firearms from the store. ATF investigators believe 123 handguns were taken from the store.
ATF Detroit Field Division Special Agent in Charge James Dier said the value of the stolen handguns was almost $100,000. Investigators obtained 122 guns, and according to the filing, Bishop told investigators that two more firearms fell out of the coolers when he was moving them.
Nance later said he remained with the store manager during the robbery, according to the affidavit. The document also states the manager told investigators that while he was being held against his will, one of the men attempted to use the manager’s CashApp account to send himself money, but was unsuccessful.
The alleged failed transaction ended up being a major tool for investigators to identify Nance, and eventually Bishop. Investigators, after reviewing the manager’s bank records, found an attempted transaction to a “Dontrell Nanc,” leading them to search Nance’s name in law enforcement records. There, they found a phone number for Nance which matched the CashApp account in the manager’s records. Nance had a previous felony conviction for unarmed robbery in 2016, according to the affidavit, placing him in the state’s law enforcement information network.
“This lead allowed law enforcement to begin surveillance of Nance at his place of residence,” Totten said.
The next day, investigators surveilled Nance at his home, where he and Bishop were seen moving the coolers into an SUV, according to the affidavit. By the early afternoon, police executed a search warrant on the homes and vehicles of the two men, where the coolers were found filled with the guns. Investigators also found a bag filled with tags that matched the stolen firearms, the document says.
Bishop and Nance both later admitted to participating in the robbery, according to law enforcement. According to the affidavit, Nance told investigators he didn’t hold the manager at gunpoint, but instead put his cell phone in a sock and held it to the manager’s head while he was blindfolded, making him believe he was being held at gunpoint. Nance told investigators he acted as the lookout for Bishop and another individual who participated in the robbery.
The ATF states around 35,000 guns were stolen from federally licensed dealers in the U.S. from 2017 to 2021. That number makes up a small chunk of the more than 1 million firearms stolen in that timeframe, accounting for guns stolen in private thefts and during interstate commerce.
Dier said firearms stolen from federally licensed dealers are typically sold to those who are prohibited from obtaining them legally.
“These are easily sold on the streets, there is a huge market by prohibited persons,” Dier said. “There’s a whole litany of folks who can’t buy these legally, so there is a black market out there.”
“These were headed for quick sale, quick money, it’s the holidays … everybody needs money. In cases like this, folks think this is an easy score.”
The case has been assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Phillip Green in Grand Rapids.