Armed gas thieves speed away at over 100 mph

Kirby A. Woodhouse (Source: ISP)
Kirby A. Woodhouse (Source: ISP)
Justin B. Nichols (Source: ISP)
Justin B. Nichols (Source: ISP)
Eric J. Minefee (Source: ISP)
Eric J. Minefee (Source: ISP)

GILMAN, IL (KFVS) - State law enforcement in Illinois say three men were recently arrested in connection to stealing gas in an armed robbery in Illinois.  They are also asking gas station employees to be on the lookout for drive-offs.

Authorities say they were notified by employees of the Fast & Fresh Shell Station in Gilman after seeing a blue Chevrolet Tahoe in their parking lot.  They said the Tahoe was occupied by a male driver and three male passengers who allegedly committed a theft of gasoline from their store on April 10.

They also said the suspects sped away at a high rate of speed.

According to State Police, a trooper was on patrol in the area and spotted the vehicle traveling toward him at a high rate of speed.  State Police say the trooper clocked the vehicle's speed at 103 mph in a 65 mph zone.  The Trooper stopped the suspect's vehicle and arrested the male driver.  While searching the front seat passenger's waistband, troopers found a .40 caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun.

Two male passengers were in the backseat of the Tahoe.

The driver, Kirby A. Woodhouse, 20, of Crest Hill, Illinois was arrested on  charges of theft and speeding.

The front seat passenger, Eric Jerimiah Minefee, 20, of Champaign, Illinois was arrested on charges of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon and no valid FOID.

A back seat passenger, Justin Breon Nichols, 23, of Champaign, Illinois was arrested on an outstanding Champaign County warrant for resisting a peace officer.

Troopers say a fourth passenger was released without charges.

"Gasoline theft is not a victimless crime. The price for this crime is paid for at the pump by every motorist," said ISP Director Hiram Grau. "We want to remind drivers and gas station vendors to be aware of their surroundings and report suspicious activity."

Officials are taking this opportunity to warn area gas stations to take the necessary safety precautions and to monitor vehicles and license plates of those paying for gasoline after filling up at the pump.  Most stations require patrons to pay in advance of their purchase, but there are some gas stations that permit patrons to pump before paying.

District 21 Commander says there have been a few local gas stations hit by thieves taking advantage of small mini mart businesses. "Not paying for gas is an easy crime of opportunity in these small, rural towns, but these offenders will eventually get caught and will be prosecuted," said Captain Bridget Bertrand.

Theft of gasoline is a Class A misdemeanor, and if convicted, carries up to a $1000 fine, up to a year in jail, and a driver's license suspension.

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