Updated 2/7/2013: Charges against Damon Banks and Lee McQuilkin were dismissed on Feb. 7, 2013. Read more here.
LANCASTER – A 28-year-old man accused of robbing three fast-food restaurants within a two-hour span must stand trial, a judge ruled Monday.
Damon Banks is charged with multiple counts of armed robbery in connection with the June 10 hold-ups of Little Caesars, Wienerschnitzel and Subway.
In each case, two men walked into the restaurant, held the employees at gunpoint, demanded money from the register and then escaped on foot, sheriff’s officials said.
During Monday’s hearing, a Subway employee and two Wienerschnitzel employees identified Banks as the gunman in the robberies.
Daniel Gutierrez testified he was working at Subway, around 9 p.m. on June 10, when two men robbed the store at gunpoint.
“They ordered a cookie and I was robbed from there,” he said.
Gutierrez pointed to Banks in the courtroom and said Banks was the gunman in the robbery. Gutierrez testified Banks was wearing a dark brown shirt during the incident and said that the other suspect was wearing a light colored or white shirt during the incident.
Under cross-examination, Gutierrez admitted he could not identify Banks in the days following the robbery.
Defense attorney, Stephen King, said Gutierrez was previously shown a photo lineup that included Banks, but Gutierrez was unable to positively identify Banks in the lineup.
Guiterrez also told detectives that the gunman had “buck teeth” or an overbite, King said.
Wienerschnitzel employee, Tiler Covone, pointed out Banks as the gunman who robbed Wienerschnitzel around 8:05 p.m. on June 10.
Covone testified Banks was wearing a white shirt, a red hat, and black shorts during the robbery. She said the other suspect was wearing a dark colored shirt and had a tattoo on his arm and neck.
Another Wienerschnitzel employee, Rosemary Cubero, also identified Banks in the Wienerschnitzel robbery.
“He was the one with the gun,” Cubero said.
Cubero testified the gunman had metal caps around his two front teeth.
No employees from Little Caesars testified in Monday’s preliminary hearing.
However, deputy Daniel Ament testified that a Little Caesars employee was unable to identify a suspect in the robbery because the gunman’s face was covered with a black t-shirt.
Also testifying at the hearing was Richard Ellis, the lead detective on the case.
Ellis said he interviewed Banks when Banks turned himself in.
During that interview, Bank said he went to Subway around 11:30 a.m. on June 10 and ordered a chicken sandwich and a bag of chips, Ellis said.
Ellis said he confirmed Banks’ story by viewing a receipt of the purchase and by viewing video surveillance from the morning of June 10.
In the video taken that morning, Banks was wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts, which was similar to what one of the suspects was wearing in all three robberies, Ellis said. The shoes and the socks were different though, Ellis acknowledged.
“But everything else is the same,” he said. Ellis said he had reviewed surveillance video of all three robberies and believed that Banks was one of the robbers.
In arguing for a dismissal of charges, King said the testimony from the witnesses was inconsistent because the three witnesses gave different accounts of Banks’ clothing, teeth and facial hair. King also stressed that Subway employee, Daniel Gutierrez, was unable to pick Banks from a photo lineup in the days following the robbery.
In the end, Banks was held to answer four of the five counts of robbery. One count was dismissed because “force or fear” was not used against a Little Caesars employee, who was in a backroom when the robbery occurred.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Blanchard also refused a request to reduce Banks’ bail, because she said that Banks was alleged to have been the gunman in the robberies.
Banks was ordered back to custody on $300,000 bail.
After the hearing, King said he was looking forward to proving his client’s innocence at trial.
“There are a lot of inconsistencies, but unfortunately it doesn’t take much to get past the preliminary hearing,” he said.
King also said he would be getting records from cell phone towers within the next 10 days, which would prove that Banks had made it all the way back to Long Beach before any of the robberies occurred.
Banks’ mother, Cecelia Duckworth, said she had viewed images from the surveillance video. She insisted that the man in the images, wearing a white t-shirt and black shorts, was not her son because the man had a “lighter complexion,” broader shoulders, a different posture, and was shorter than Banks.
“I know it’s not Damon, it’s clear as day it’s not Damon,” Duckworth said.
Banks is due back in court on Aug. 20.
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