KPD collars chimp-disguised robbery suspect

Rain Smith • Dec 21, 2017 at 11:48 AM

KINGSPORT — An 18-year-old has been arrested in connection with the October robbery of a convenience store, which he allegedly entered wearing a chimpanzee mask and demanded money, but made away with only $30 in cigarettes.

Michael A. Whiteley, 1425 Sevier Terrace Drive, turned himself in earlier this week. Kingsport police say his disguise and weapon — a BB gun — ultimately tabbed him as the culprit, as a review of Walmart surveillance footage revealed Whiteley stealing the items shortly before the robbery.

The incident occurred on Oct. 26 at about 11:45 p.m. As previously reported, a man entered Zoomerz, 4221 W. Stone Drive, brandishing what appeared to be a dark-colored handgun and wearing a chimpanzee mask.

According to a police report, Whiteley rushed behind the counter and ordered a clerk to “put everything in the bag.” When the employee activated an alarm, Whiteley allegedly grabbed five packs of cigarettes and ran out the door, pushing another clerk who was entering the business after taking out the trash.

Customers in the parking lot watched the masked man run across West Stone Drive and told police that he carried a pistol in his hand. A search of the area located discarded jeans that Whiteley allegedly wore during the robbery, while a K-9 track led to the vicinity of Holly Hills Apartments, then went cold.

Subsequent investigation led Kingsport detectives to Walmart, where chimpanzee masks like the one used in the robbery were sold. Though sales records did not indicate any correlating transactions, a review of surveillance video allegedly revealed Whitley stealing a mask. He was also reportedly observed to shoplift other items used in the robbery, including a coat, gloves and BB gun.

A warrant for robbery was obtained for Whiteley and he was jailed on Monday. 

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