A cashier being robbed last Sept. 29 at a 7-Eleven store at 2900 W. Montrose Ave. The FBI says the holdup was linked to an unusual series of other robberies and carjackings.

A cashier being robbed last Sept. 29 at a 7-Eleven store at 2900 W. Montrose Ave. The FBI says the holdup was linked to an unusual series of other robberies and carjackings.

FBI

FBI’s high-tech investigation cracks Chicago carjacking spree

An affidavit for a search warrant in the case offers an unusually detailed glimpse at how investigators use technology to find carjacking patterns as they try to combat such crimes.

About $560 in cash was stuffed into Dwight Hasberry’s jeans when he was arrested last year on the West Side, authorities say.

Police say the cash included a stack of dollar bills that were glued together. What the robbers didn’t know: A tracking device was sandwiched inside.

The tracker showed the money came from a Northwest Side 7-Eleven store that had been robbed about half an hour earlier.

The device was among a raft of technological evidence — from cellphone towers, license-plate readers, police surveillance cameras and more — the FBI says it used to link seven carjackings and three armed robberies committed in an ambitious two-day spree in late September.

Hasberry, 29, Damandre Henley, 26, Tyler Oates-Nelson, 27, and Davario McDowell, 23, were charged last month with one of those carjackings and two of the robberies.

An FBI affidavit for a search warrant in the case offers an unusually detailed glimpse at how investigators use technology to find carjacking patterns as they try to combat the high number of those crimes in recent years.

In the map below, the red symbols represent locations of carjackings and the yellow symbols represent locations of car recoveries. For more details, click the icon in the top left corner. Can’t see the map? Click here.

Law enforcement sources say such technology is crucial not only in carjacking investigations but also in murder cases, which often rely less on confessions and witness statements and more on circumstantial evidence provided by surveillance data — for instance what was done to find and arrest a suspect in the 2021 killing of Shaoxiong “Dennis” Zheng, a 24-year-old University of Chicago student.

Over the past two years, the number of carjackings in Chicago each year has been the highest the city has seen in more than two decades, though the number ebbed in 2022, and there have been fewer so far this year than during the same period last year.

The FBI, the Cook County sheriff’s office and the Illinois State Police are part of a 2-year-old Chicago police carjacking task force that has been a “game-changer,” according to Roe Conn, director of data driven strategies for Sheriff Tom Dart.

When carjacking crews are arrested, there’s often a quick — but not permanent — drop in the number of these crimes, Conn says.

“We’re starting to really make a dent in the offender networks,” he says.

Technology is crucial to making many carjacking cases, Conn says.

“It takes a lot of pieces to come together to bring charges and get convictions,” he says, noting that it’s not uncommon for investigators to take six months to present a carjacking case to prosecutors.

The FBI and the Chicago Police Department declined to comment.

Surveillance technology was key in the investigation of the carjacking last year of a man whose child was in a car seat at the time. Three men drove up to a 2021 Volkswagen Tiguan in a stolen Nissan Altima at 11:25 p.m. on Sept. 28 in the 1400 block of West Erie Street in the West Loop.

The men, wearing black ski masks, were armed with handguns and ordered the man driving the sport-utility vehicle to “get the f--- out of the car,” he told the police. He took his child from the car seat, and the carjackers sped off in the VW. The victim’s “registered” handgun was in the glovebox, the affidavit in the case says.

Investigators were able to use data from license-plate readers, surveillance cameras and location tracking on the suspects’ cellphones to document the movement of the Volkswagen after it was stolen, the affidavit shows. License-plate readers captured the SUV on the Eisenhower Expressway and Kennedy Expressway.

About 40 minutes after the carjacking — at 12:05 a.m. on Sept. 29 — surveillance cameras showed a similar vehicle in the 2600 block of West Lawrence Avenue, where a gunman jumped out and robbed someone trying to unlock a Divvy bike. The robber took a cellphone and a wallet.

Five minutes later and about three blocks away — in the 4600 block of North Rockwell Street — three men jumped out of a similar SUV and robbed a man of his backpack.

Another five minutes later and three blocks away, three masked gunmen jumped out of an SUV and robbed the 7-Eleven at 2900 W. Montrose Ave., grabbing liquor and cigarettes and taking cash from the register.

A surveillance video confirmed the vehicle was the Volkswagen Tiguan that had been carjacked less than an hour earlier.

Liquor and other items stolen Sept. 29 from a 7-Eleven store at 2900 W. Montrose Ave.

Liquor and other items stolen Sept. 29 from a 7-Eleven store at 2900 W. Montrose Ave.

FBI

License plate readers showed the SUV driving south on the Kennedy to the Eisenhower and west to Kedzie Avenue. The car was being tailed by Chicago police officers and a Chicago police helicopter.

Police found the Volkswagen ditched in an alley in the 3800 block of West Monroe Street. Officers said they found Henley and Hasberry hiding nearby.

Based on the blue gloves he’s wearing, the FBI believes this surveillance photo shows Dwight Hasberry taking cash from a register during a robbery Sept. 29 of a 7-Eleven at 2900 W. Montrose Ave. He was arrested shortly after the holdup, wearing similar gloves, the FBI says.

Based on the blue gloves worn in this surveillance photo, the FBI said it believes Dwight Hasberry is shown taking cash from a register during a robbery Sept. 29 of a 7-Eleven at 2900 W. Montrose Ave. He was arrested shortly after the holdup, wearing similar gloves, the FBI says.

FBI

Hasberry was wearing a ski mask and blue surgical gloves matching the ones worn by one of the 7-Eleven robbers, police said. His pockets were overflowing with the stolen cash that included the tracking device, according to the FBI.

Stolen cash in Dwight Hasberry’s jeans, shown in an FBI affidavit.

Stolen cash in Dwight Hasberry’s jeans, shown in an FBI affidavit.

FBI

Henley was carrying a stolen handgun and wearing shoes that matched those worn by one of the store robbers, according to the police.

Another handgun found nearby belonged to the owner of the Volkswagen, they said.

Court records don’t say where Oates-Nelson and McDowell were when Henley and Hasberry were arrested.

The stolen Volkswagen after police recovered it on the West Side.

The stolen Volkswagen after police recovered it on the West Side.

FBI

According to the FBI affidavit, investigators believe Hasberry, Henley and their co-defendants were involved in six other carjackings on Sept. 28 in the West Loop, Lake View, Humboldt Park and Logan Square, based on surveillance videos and other evidence.

Five of those vehicles were recovered on the West Side — four near Garfield Park, just south of where the suspects lived, authorities say.

Since the carjacking task force was formed two years ago, a higher percentage of stolen vehicles is being recovered, Conn says. In the past, he says, about 40% were located, but that percentage is about twice as high.

Previously, Conn says, it might have taken a week to get a carjacked vehicle back, but now they’re often located within six hours to a day.

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