Jury convicts man in holdup of Texarkana Taco Bell

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A Bowie County jury deliberated less than an hour Wednesday before finding a 21-year-old man guilty of robbing a local Taco Bell last year.

Lamarcus Deshon Criner, 21, is scheduled to return to court this morning for the punishment phase of his aggravated robbery trial. He faces five to 99 years or life behind bars.

Taco Bell night manager Mandesa McKnight testified she was getting ready to close the New Boston Road store at about 9:40 p.m. when two men wearing masks and baseball caps walked in pointing guns Sept. 22, 2014. McKnight said she opened the drive-through cash register and got down on the floor as the men took money from the drawer and unsuccessfully attempted to open a cash register at the front counter.

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“It was about 25 to 30 seconds and they were gone,” McKnight said.

Texarkana, Texas police Sgt. Geoffery Lewis testified that he was just a few blocks away when the robbery call came across his radio. Lewis said he drove with his lights off to an area in the direction the robbers were thought to have run on foot and spotted two men standing on a corner near Seventeenth Street and Waterall.

Lewis said one of the men, who was Criner’s accomplice, Justin Collins, 20, ran into nearby woods leading him to follow on foot.

“Vines and bushes caught him and threw him back into me,” Lewis told the jury. “I attempted to take him into custody. He pulled a gun and put it to my head and pulled the trigger but the chamber was empty.”

Lewis said he grabbed at Collins’ gun and pulled his own. When he realized he’d knocked the Ruger pistol out of Collins’ hand, Lewis said he put his own weapon back in its holster.

Crime Scene Technician Spencer Price said he collected a black and silver Ruger handgun, a clip for the Ruger, a black pellet gun, and a camouflage mask from the area where Lewis took Collins into custody. Price said he also found a grey button-down shirt near the Taco Bell which was stained with a green and purple substance. Price said he later matched the stains on the button-down to stains on the white tee shirt Criner was wearing when he was arrested by Officer D.E. Evans a short time after the robbery.

Price testified that he believes Criner was wearing both shirts during the robbery and got rid of the button-down in an attempt to change his appearance. Price testified he located an Elderberry bush not far from the Taco Bell which would have been along the route Taco Bell video surveillance showed the men had run.

DNA testing on the camouflage mask matched Collins’ genetic profile, testified Texas Department of Public Safety analyst Claire Meyers, when questioned by Assistant District Attorney Katie Carter. Testing could not connect Criner, however, Meyers said.

Criner’s attorney, Derric McFarland of Texarkana, argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to find Criner guilty.

But First Assistant District Attorney Michael Shepherd argued that a lack of DNA evidence shouldn’t lead the jury to forget their common sense. Shepherd said the Elderberry stains on both shirts, one of which was worn by Criner at the time of his arrest and the other of which could be seen on a robber’s back in video surveillance, was enough.

The jury agreed.

Collins plead guilty to aggravated assault on a peace officer and aggravated robbery earlier this year. He is currently serving a 35-year prison term.

Check TXK Today tomorrow for coverage of Criner’s sentence.

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