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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Three Independence Residents Sentenced for Armed Robberies


KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that three Independence, Mo., residents were sentenced in federal court today for their roles in a series of armed robberies in Independence, during which one of the defendants was shot by a police officer.

Justin M. Epps, 23, Devontae A. Spears, 20, and Tairre Y. Matthews, 22, all of Independence, were sentenced in separate appearances before U.S. District Judge Greg Kays. Epps was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison without parole. Spears and Matthews were each sentenced to two years and six months in federal prison without parole.

Epps, Spears and Matthews each pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting each other in three armed robberies in Independence in late 2011 – at two 7-Eleven stores and a Papa John’s Pizza – in which they used what appeared to be handguns but were actually air pistols.

The co-defendants were arrested following the robbery of the 7-Eleven convenience store at 11001 E. 23rd St., Independence, on Nov. 3, 2011. On that day an Independence detective was conducting surveillance on the store and saw Epps and Spears, dressed in black, enter the store. Epps was carrying what appeared to be a handgun and had a back pack.

Epps, wearing a white plastic mask with eye holes, pointed the gun at the clerk, who went to the counter and took money from a cash drawer. The clerk also gave Epps money from a second cash drawer. Epps also took some unknown brand liquor, cigars, and possibly cigarettes from behind the counter. Epps asked for the clerk’s wallet and the clerk gave Epps $15 from his wallet. Epps asked for access to the 7-Eleven safe, which was present behind the counter, but the clerk advised Epps that he could not access the safe.

As they left the store, Epps and Spears were arrested by law enforcement officers who were positioned around the building. Epps was shot by law enforcement officers during his arrest after pointing what appeared to be a gun at them in a threatening manner, and was taken to the hospital. Spears was arrested without incident. Matthews, who was waiting in a vehicle parked nearby, was also arrested without incident.

Epps, Spears and Matthews admitted to participating in at least two other robberies, along with a couple of attempted robberies. Matthews admitted that she drove Epps and Spears to the 7-Eleven and participated with them in other robberies.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin G. Davids. It was investigated by the Independence, Mo., Police Department, the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department and the FBI.

Updated January 14, 2015