Seller Held Up At Gunpoint During Internet-Based Transaction

Warren Collins

Two persons from Belleville are in custody this morning suspected of conducting an armed robbery last night in rural Columbia. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department is working with officers from Pontoon Beach and the Illinois State Police in the ongoing investigation.

The initial report is that a rural Columbia resident had sold a cell phone using the internet swap site LetGo. He agreed to conduct the transaction of the item at his home on Thursday evening. The person making the purchase was Warren Collins, 19, of Belleville. When the time came for the transaction, 11:50 p.m., a red Grand Am pulled into the driveway of the home located on Litteken Lane, off Steppig Road. Collins exited the vehicle and approached the homeowner. As the homeowner handed over his phone expecting to receive cash in exchange, Collins pulled out a handgun and took the phone without paying. Collins and the driver then fled the scene.

The homeowner called 911 and reported the car was heading toward Bluff Road. Monroe County Sheriff’s deputies rushed to take action. One officer went to the home, while several others searched for the fleeing vehicle. An all-points-bulletin was issued and Columbia police officers were soon canvassing the area. A CPD patrol car soon spotted the suspect vehicle driving on Steppig Road. The red Grand Am proceeded to drive onto Bluff Road, but never complied with the flashing police lights by stopping. During the pursuit, the CPD officer saw a handgun being tossed out the window at Palmer Road and Old State Route 3 on the north end of town. With officers continuing to follow, the Grand Am drove onto I-255 at a high rate of speed. Columbia officers ended their pursuit once the car made it across the J.B. Bridge and into South County. Missouri officers were notified of the situation. A thorough investigation then got underway. Officers were soon able to retrieve the gun tossed out the window during the pursuit. 

The Illinois State Police soon informed the Monroe County deputies that similar armed robberies with the apparent same car took place earlier that day in Pontoon Beach and Cahokia. With officers working overnight on the case, the suspects were located in East St. Louis and taken into custody. The driver, a juvenile from Belleville, is being held at the St. Clair County Juvenile Detention Center.

Collins is being held at the Monroe County Jail. He will be arraigned this afternoon at the Monroe County Courthouse on charges of armed robbery, aggravated unlawful use of a weapon, theft under $500, and unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition without a FOID card.

Officers continue to investigate this case. Additional information will be released as it becomes available.